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Officers of the Society 

(Term of office expires March i of the year indicated.) 


University of California, Berkeley, California 


Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, New York 



Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio 


(1955) (Ex-officio) 
University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois 


New York University , New York, New York 


University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 


Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 



5835 Kimbark Avenue, Chicago 37, Illinois 




The Fifty-fourth Yearbook of the 
National Society for the Study of Education 


Prepared by the Yearbook Committee: JOHN s. BRUBACHER (Chairman), 




Edited by 


The responsibilities of the Board of Directors of the National 
Society for the Study of Education in the case of Yearbooks pre- 
pared by the Society's committees are (1) to select the subjects to 
be investigated, (2) to appoint committees calculated in their per- 
sonnel to insure consideration of all significant points of view, (3) 
to provide appropriate subsidies for necessary expenses, (4) to pub- 
lish and distribute the committees' reports, and (5) to arrange for 
their discussion at the annual meetings. 

The responsibility of the Yearbook Editor is to prepare the sub- 
mitted manuscripts for publication in accordance with the principles 
and regulations approved by the Board of Directors. 

Neither the Board of Directors, nor the Yearbook Editor, nor 
the Society is responsible for the conclusions reached or the opinions 
expressed by the Society's yearbook committees. 

Published 1955 by 


jtf^f Kimbark Avenue, Chicago 37, Illinois 

Copyright, 19;;, by NELSON B. HENRY, Secretary of the Society 

No part of this Yearbook may be reproduced in any form without written 

permission from the Secretary of the Society. First printing, 10,000 Copies 

Printed in the United States of America 

The Society's Committee on 
Modern Philosophies and Education 


Professor of the History and the Philosophy of Education 

Yale University 
New Haven, Connecticut 


Teacher of the Theory and Practice of Criticism 

English Department, Bennington College 

Bennington, Vermont 


Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Physics 

Wesleyan University 
Middletown, Connecticut 


Professor of Education, Ohio State University 
Columbus, Ohio 


Professor of Philosophy, Tulane University 
New Orleans, Louisiana 


Director, Minnesota Center for Philosophy of Science, and 

Professor of Philosophy, University of Minnesota 

Minneapolis, Minnesota 


Professor of Philosophy, Antioch College 
Yellow Springs, Indiana 


Professor of Philosophy, Yale University 
New Haven, Connecticut 


Director, Council for Religion in Independent Schools 
Cambridge, Massachusetts 


Emeritus Professor of Philosophy, Princeton University 
Princeton, Nev> Jersey 


Professor of Philosophy, Harvard University 
Cambridge, Massachusetts 



Professor of Education, University of Minnesota 
Minneapolis, Minnesota 


Professor of Education, Boston University 
Boston, Massachusetts 


Professor of Education, State Teachers College 
Framingham, Massachusetts 


Princeton Theological Seminary 
Princeton, New Jersey 


Professor of Education, Notre Dame University 
Notre Dame, Indiana 


Professor of Education, Stanford University 
Stanford, California 


Professor of Education, Harvard University 
Cambridge, Massachusetts 


Professor of Education, University of Alabama 
University, Alabama 

Editor s Preface 

The National Society is pleased to present its second publication 
on educational philosophy. Part I of the Forty-first Yearbook, Phi- 
losophies of Education, is well and favorably known to the profes- 
sion. Copies that are available for distribution at the present time 
represent the thirteenth printing of that yearbook, the cumulative 
totals of these impressions exceeding twenty-five thousand volumes. 

It is not the expectation of the Board of Directors of the Society 
that the new yearbook, Modern Philosophies and Education, will 
supplant the earlier publication. The relationship between the vol- 
umes is clearly supplementary, as will be inferred from the distinc- 
tive phrasing of the titles. In the "Introduction" to the present 
volume, Professor Brubacher, who is chairman of the yearbook com- 
mittee and was likewise chairman of the committee for the year- 
book, Philosophies of Education, explains that the present volume 
will help teachers become acquainted with points of view which 
were not expounded by the contributors to the earlier yearbook. 
Moreover, the design of the later yearbook is such that the authors 
are able to present their own interpretation of the implications of 
their philosophical concepts for the most important educational 
problems and practices. Thus, the two yearbooks together afford 
the student of educational theory and practice a ready access to 
authoritative opinion on fundamental issues respecting educational 
aims and procedures as interpreted by educational philosophers on 
the one hand and, on the other hand, by general philosophers having 
a particular interest in the progress of education. 

Teachers and school administrators will welcome the forthright 
statements of the authors of the several chapters in this yearbook, 
both for the scholarly presentations of the tenets of major schools 
of thought in modern philosophy and for the contribution of these 
essays to the clarification of the role of philosophy in modern 


Table of Contents 






INTRODUCTION, Chairman of Yearbook Committee . i 


Brubacher . 

Educational Theory in Relation to Social Tensions. Progressive 
versus Traditional Aims in Education. Contemporary Issues in 
American Education. The Role of Philosophy in Educational 


Basic Orientation. Educational Aims and Values. The Educa- 
tional Process and Curriculum. The School and Society. The 
School and the Individual. The School and Religion. 


Basic Orientation. Educational Aims and Values. Educational 
Process. Education and the Individual. School and Society. 
School and Religion. 


dore M. Greene . oy 

Basic Orientation. Basic Aims and Values of Education. The 
Educational Process. The School and the Individual. The School 
and Society. The School and Religion. 


Geiger . . , Vi37 

Introduction. Basic Orientation. Aims and Values of Education. 
Experimentalist Approach to Educational Problems. The Educa- 
tional Processes: Motivation and Methods. Relation of the School 
to Society and the Individual. The School and Religion. 





Introduction. The Philosophy and Social Theory of Marxism. 
Educational Principles. 


Ralph Harper 215 

Basic Orientation. Aims, Values, and Curriculum. The Educa- 
tive Process. School and Society, The School and the Individual. 
Comments on Ralph Harper's Essay (Robert Ulich). 


Burke 259 

Basic Orientation. Educational Aims and Values. Educational 
Process. School and Society: Social Philosophy. The School and 
the Individual. School and Religion. Epilogue. 


A LOGICAL EMPIRICIST, Herbert Feigl 304- 

Introduction. Some of the Main Principles of Logical Empiri- 
cism. Ends and Means of Education. 


wan 34: 

Theory of Unlearning. Theory of Belief. Theory of Learning. 
Theory of the Known. Concrete Proposals. 

IVDEX 371 





In 1942 Part I of the Forty-first Yearbook of the National Society 
for the Study of Education appeared under the title Philosophies of 
Education. In that volume, leading exponents of the currently most 
prominent philosophies of education contributed chapters expound- 
ing their respective points of view. The yearbook was a valuable 
contribution to the comparative study of educational philosophy 
because within the covers of a single book it enabled the reader to 
get a quick survey of the distinctive thought of each philosophic 
system stated by an advocate of that system. 

In order to augment even further the philosophical resources avail- 
able for the guidance of those engaged in education, the National 
Society is here projecting a second yearbook in educational philos- 
ophy. In this yearbook it seeks to acquaint teachers not only with 
more points of view but also with new authors. While the Forty-first 
Yearbook invited leading philosophers of education to contribute to 
its pages, the present yearbook has invited men from general philos- 
ophy. In the field of general philosophy there are not only more 
varieties of opinion than in the more limited field of education, but 
there are also a number of prominent philosophers whose views on 
education, if once worked out from their author's philosophical 
premises, may very well provide fresh insights into educational prob- 
lems. While professional education undoubtedly stands to benefit 
from the consideration given its problems by general philosophy, we 
may well hope at the same rime that general philosophers will find 
their problems somewhat clearer by virtue of having thought them 
through in terms of their educational implications. 

In projecting this yearbook, the Board of Directors of the Society 
has realized from the start that general philosophers, although usually 
acquainted with education as professors in colleges and universities, 
might not be equally familiar with the problems of education at 


lower levels, as secondary and elementary. In order, therefore, to 
make their philosophical analysis and conclusions as available as pos- 
sible on these lower rungs of the educational ladder, an educational 
collaborator was appointed for each contributor to this yearbook. 
In each case the yearbook committee chose someone from the field 
of educational philosophy whose system of thought was as nearly 
sympathetic to that of the contributor as possible. The plan of the 
yearbook committee has been that each contributor should write his 
chapter and then submit it to his collaborator for criticism. For 
the most part, collaborators' criticisms have been incorporated into 
the main body of contributors' chapters. In some cases, however, 
criticism as further comment by collaborators has been included in 
footnotes or quotations. 

In order to facilitate the reader's comparison of the various 
philosophies presented, the yearbook has been organized according 
to a definite design. It is a shortcoming of the Forty-first Yearbook 
that the contributors there did not address themselves to any com- 
mon set of problems. Consequently, although notable differences 
occur between chapters, it is not always easy to compare them at 
specific points. The present volume has sought to avoid this dif- 
ficulty in two ways. In the first place, the chairman of the yearbook 
committee wrote an introductory chapter in which he tried to shape 
up some of the principal philosophical issues underlying education 
in mid-twentieth century. This chapter was distributed to con- 
tributors and collaborators prior to an early face-to-face meeting of 
the whole group. Later at this meeting this chapter was further 
sharpened by common agreement to direct attention to six vital 
areas. As a result, each author agreed as nearly as possible to write 
(i) an opening section in which he would develop his general 
philosophical orientation; then would follow five sections, each de- 
veloping some educational aspect of the author's main philosophical 
position, as (2) a section developing aims, values, and curriculum, 
(3) another developing the educative process, its methods, motiva- 
tion, and the like, (4) the next dealing with school and society, (5) 
the following one considering the school and the individual, and 
(6) the final section dealing with religious and moral education. 

The order in which the chapters in the yearbook appear perhaps 
needs explaining. Instead of following some pattern based on the 


relation of schools of philosophical thought to each other it has 
seemed best to group at the beginning those chapters which most 
nearly follow the divisions outlined in the preceding paragraph. This 
will facilitate the reading of the yearbook by those less accustomed 
to digging into philosophical writing. After having read these 
chapters, they will be more prepared for those in which authors 
addressed themselves to the suggested problems but found some 
other pattern of organization and treatment more convenient for 
bringing out their principal points with maximum effect. 


The Challenge To Philosophize about Education 


Educational Theory in Relation to Social Tensions 
The study of educational philosophy has flourished in the twen- 
tieth century as never before in the whole history of education. 
Earlier centuries, no doubt, produced a fair share of famous essays 
on education, but relatively few of these essays were philosophical 
in exposition and intent. Comenius' Didactica Magna, Locke's 
Thoughts Concerning Education, and Rousseau's famile were notable 
publications, but none of the three was explicitly a philosophy of 
education. Perhaps a philosophy of education was implicit in these 
essays, but certainly none was systematically set forth. Philosophers 
like Aristotle, St. Thomas, Kant, and Hegel gave passing attention 
to education, but in no case did one of them give it rounded treat- 
ment. Herbart took education much more seriously, but even he 
limited himself to its moral and psychological aspects. Only Plato 
of pre-twentieth-century philosophers produced a notable phi- 
losophy of education (in his Republic). The twentieth century, by 
contrast, has produced almost a plethora of publications on philoso- 
phy of education, mostly American. Indeed, only half over, it has 
already produced not only one major philosophy of education, 
Dewey's Democracy and Education, but a dozen or more minor ones 
as well. 1 

What is the reason for this greatly augmented interest in edu- 
cational philosophy? Perhaps the simplest answer is the rise of "pro- 
gressive education" as a cause celebre. At first, the newer educational 
procedures of this movement were a protest against the rather 

i . For a bibliography of these writings, see John S. Brubacher's Modern Phi- 
losophies of Education, pp. zopn, 303^ 314^ 3i7n, 3 ion. New York: McGraw- 
Hill Book Co., 1950 (revised edition). 


formal educational practices inherited from the nineteenth century. 
As the protest gained momentum, people began to see that the newer 
educational practices were not just an amendment to traditional 
practice but involved a fundamental departure from it. In the early 
phases of the movement, "progressive education" met no more op- 
position than the inertia of convention. While the progressive con- 
cepts had difficulty in overcoming this inertia in practice, the ad- 
vocates of reform won easy victories over such opposition in the 
field of theory during the 1 920*5. As theoretical victories led to 
more and more victories in the field of practice, the defenders of 
traditional and conventional education finally took pen in hand 
to defend their own practices and even to go over to the offensive 
to attack progressive education during the 1 930*5. Then war inter- 
vened, causing an interlude in the strife of educational systems, and 
our whole energies were mobilized to resolve the international strife 
of political and economic ideologies. Now that there is an interlude 
after that war, we have returned to the conflict of educational 
ideologies again. 

It is no doubt an oversimplification to ascribe the great interest of 
the twentieth century in educational philosophy to just the contest 
between progressive and traditional educational practices. The issue 
really lies much deeper. The experimental schools which made up 
progressive education were but the vanguard of that larger twen- 
tieth-century endeavor to assume more and more intentional control 
of the social process. Traditional methods of cultural transmission 
and renewal, once left to automatic processes, now became the 
object of conscious consideration. Progressive schools, for in- 
stance, deliberately fashioned their practices on scientific findings. 
As these often were in conflict with cherished traditional convictions 
there was an urgent demand for a fresh philosophical approach to 
resolve the conflict. 

Thus, while traditional education has been based on a meta- 
physical psychology, "progressive education" has taken its cue from 
a psychology recently become scientific. Techniques of measure- 
ment devised by the new psychology have demanded a different 
conception of human nature, a conception which traditional edu- 
cation has often found repugnant to its metaphysical psychology. 
Again, the interpretation of biological findings, especially the theory 


of organic evolution, has widened the differences between tradi- 
tional and "progressive" education. To attach the adjective "pro- 
gressive" to education can mean quite different things depending on 
whether one uses an Aristotelian or a Darwinian conception of de- 
velopment. Further educational complications have arisen from a 
third scientific area, anthropological and sociological studies. The 
cultural relativity frequently espoused by these disciplines has stood 
in sharp contrast to fixed conceptions of the curriculum, especially 
in moral education, held by adherents of the old school. Underlying 
all these issues are conflicting assumptions which only careful and 
systematic philosophizing can clarify. 

It must be remembered, too, that these disagreements over edu- 
cational policy took place in the twentieth century in a matrix of 
political and economic upheaval. This century has witnessed a rising 
struggle for political power between varieties of autocracy mo- 
narchic at first, fascistic later, and communistic currently and 
varieties of democracy laissez-faire individualism, benevolent pa- 
ternal new-dealism, and a pragmatic liberalism strongly supported 
by many professional leaders of teachers. The resulting confusion 
over political ideals obviously has obscured the precise nature of 
citizenship as a dominating aim of education. The strife of political 
systems has been underscored by the further strife of economic sys- 
tems, notably capitalism and communism. If, as some philosophers 
allege, the quality of education varies according to the way in 
which a man earns his bread, then the road ahead for education is 
anything but clear, for the rise of the working classes the world 
over is already making unprecedented demands for the reform of 

The strife of political and economic ideologies has also greatly 
aggravated nationalistic rivalries. To the rational arguments which 
can be adduced for each ideology has been added the organized 
forces of national states. Consequently, national schools have taught 
these ideologies with patriotic fervor. The threat this provides to 
amicable settlement of international disagreements brings nearer the 
resulting danger of war. Just how to harness national resources to 
provide added educational opportunities and yet how at the same 
time to avoid irreconcilable rivalries is obviously another problem 
driving educators to philosophy. Their problem takes on com- 


plication as well as inspiration as they seek an educational policy to 
undergird the efforts of UNESCO, a policy which will respect 
diverse national, political, economic, and religious factors in edu- 
cation and yet will find a common denominator for them all. 

Naturally, conflicts such as these have placed tremendous strain 
on the moral texture of twentieth-century culture. To teach children 
how to maintain moral integrity and integrated personalities in the 
face of all these conflicting demands is no simple task. The main 
trouble is that it is so difficult to tell in a period of accelerated 
social transition whether new departures in well-accepted customs 
are a weakening of former standards or a step toward new and 
better ones. It is even difficult to tell whether the ills which beset us 
presently are the result of changing social conditions or the changes 
brought about in the schools by "progressive education." On the 
assumption that it is the secularism of "progressive education" that 
is to blame, some in the twentieth century have demanded a re- 
newed emphasis on religion in public education. This demand, of 
course, requires a re-examination of the nineteenth-century policy of 
the divorce of church and state in matters of education, to say 
nothing of rethinking the whole problem of religious and moral 
education in the light of the foregoing forces. 

In view of the contradictory, often confusing, issues presented, 
it should not be surprising that men have resorted to philosophizing 
about education in this century as never before. This does not mean 
that it is anything new for men to be in a quandary about which 
direction education should take. Men have confronted many such 
crises in civilization's long history. Plato, for instance, wrote his 
Republic partly in response to the unstable social conditions of his 
day. Still, the present tensions seem more acute for education than 
previous ones. The principal difference between present and past 
eras seems to be that today education is consciously used as a 
tremendous instrument of public policy. Formerly, only the 
privileged classes benefited by an extended education. But today 
most states aim at universal education, the education of all classes. 
Consequently, alterations in educational direction caused by shifting 
configurations of tension among the forces mentioned above have a 
far greater outreach than ever before in the world's history. 


Progressive versus Traditional Aims in Education 
While aggravated tensions political, economic, religious, scien- 
tificare probably at the bottom of the proliferation of educational 
philosophies in the twentieth century, it should not escape notice 
that one philosophical endeavor to resolve these tensions is itself also 
a major cause of this proliferation. Except for the emergence of 
John Dewey and the persistent challenge of his pragmatism to 
every phase of contemporary education, it is unlikely that edu- 
cational philosophy would have had anywhere near the rise to 
prominence it has had in this century. His writings were not only 
the inspiration for others who wrote in the same vein but, much 
more important for richness and breadth in professional literature, 
he provoked opponents of his view to make explicit a variety of 
philosophical defenses of traditional or conservative educational 
practices which had only been implicit thitherto. This was par- 
ticularly true of the Catholic position. 

Since Dewey's pragmatism has been the principal philosophical 
proponent of "progressive education" and since the launching of 
"progressive education" was the immediate, if not ultimate, cause of 
so much writing in educational philosophy, it may be well, before 
sharpening and stating the issues to which the contributors of this 
yearbook will address themselves, to give some exposition of the 
nature of the attack that Dewey and pragmatism have made on 
conventional educational practices. Perhaps before doing that, 
however, we should take a look at the theory and practice of the 
sort of education which Dewey sought to reform when he inaugu- 
rated his experimental school at the University of Chicago. 

Perhaps the briefest and at the same time the most accurate de- 
scription of the conventional school of the late nineteenth and early 
twentieth centuries is to be found in the Lynds' Middletown. 2 "The 
school like the factory," ran their sociological description of Middle- 
town, "is a thoroughly regimented world. Immovable seats in order- 
ly rows fix the sphere of activity of each child. For all, from the 
timid six-year-old entering for the first time to the most assured 
high-school senior, the general routine is much the same. Bells divide 
the day into periods. For the six-year-olds the periods are short 

2. R. S. Lynd and H. M. Lynd, Middletovm, pp. 188-89. New York: Har- 
court, Brace & Co., 1929. 


(fifteen to twenty-five minutes) and varied; in some they leave their 
seats, play games, and act out make-believe stories, although in 
'recitation periods' all movement is prohibited. As they grow older 
the taboo upon physical activity becomes stricter, until by the 
third or fourth year practically all movement is forbidden except 
the marching from one set of seats to another between periods, a 
brief interval of prescribed exercise daily, and periods of manual 
training or home economics once or twice a week. There are 'study 
periods' in which children learn 'lessons' from 'textbooks' pre- 
scribed by the state and 'recitation periods' in which they tell an 
adult teacher what the book has said; one hears children reciting the 
battles of the Civil War in one recitation period, the rivers of 
Africa in another, the 'parts of speech* in a third; the method is 
much the same." 

No one in the nineteenth century explicitly expounded the phi- 
losophy behind this practice. Yet an educational philosophy it sure- 
ly had. The spirit of this school fairly breathes rigidity, formalism, 
and regimentation. These qualities may have been due to the 
shortcomings of unselected and poorly trained teachers of which 
there is an oversupply at any time. But over and above that, there 
were many educators, lay and professional people, who justified this 
formalism because it afforded a valuable discipline for children. By 
subduing their natural spontaneity and subjugating it to a fixed 
routine, to screwed-down seats and desks, to a logically organized 
subject matter, children learned to conform to the way things are. 
And things did exist in a definite order and fashion. This was par- 
ticularly true in the moral order and the scientific order of nature. 
In this order, human nature was composed of faculties, and it was 
the role of the school to sharpen them by grinding them against the 
abrasive whetstone of the hard facts of life. If that seemed dis- 
agreeable, Mr. Dooley was at hand to humor critics by stating 
ironically that it did not really matter what children studied so 
didiTLt .likejt. Consequently, interest was neglected and 

children were urged to put forth effort in the sheer performance of 
abstract duty. The teacher's authority, even for those so fortunate 
as to be trained along Herbartian lines, was omnipresent to enforce 
this duty. 
At a little deeper level most thoughtful nineteenth-century edu- 


cators, and many twentieth-century educators as well, whether 
Catholic or Protestant, subscribed to a humanistic theory of edu- 
cation. They held with Aristotle that the distinctive nature of man 
which set him off from other animals was his rationality. The princi- 
pal function of education, therefore, was to develop this rationality. 
This was to be sought as a worth-while end in itself for, as Aristotle 
said, "The activity of God, which surpasses all others in blessedness, 
must be contemplative; and of human activities, therefore, that which 
is most akin to this must be most of the nature of happiness. . . . 
Happiness extends, then, just as far as contemplation does, and 
those to whom contemplation more fully belongs are more truly 
happy, not as a mere concomitant but in virtue of the contempla- 
tion; for this is itself precious." 3 Or, as Cardinal Newman put it 
centuries later with educational bearings more definitely in mind, 
"Surely it is very intelligible to say, and that is what I say here, that 
Liberal Education, viewed in itself, is simply the cultivation of the 
intellect as such, and its object is nothing more or less than intel- 
lectual excellence." 4 

The experimental schools of the twentieth century, of which 
Dewey's was merely one of the earlier and better known, made a 
definite departure from the type of education compositely described 
in Middletown. In these new schools the last thing school re- 
sembled was a factory. Instead of mechanical uniformity, school 
was characterized by flexibility and spontaneity. School furniture 
was movable and the length of periods was measured by the work 
in hand to be done. Pupil activity, far from being taboo, became the 
central feature of the progressive school. Indeed, its curriculum be- 
came known as an "activity" curriculum. Children still dug subject 
matter out of texts but not isolated from life and for the mere formal 
purpose of reproducing it on examinations. On the contrary, they 
undertook projects in which they were interested and searched 
subject matter for suggestions for activities to be undertaken to 
insure the successful outcome of their projects. 

Obviously, the spirit or philosophy of this school stood in marked 
contrast to that of Middletovtm. The features of this spirit which im- 

3. Aristotle, Politics, Bk. X, chap. viiL 

4. J. H. Newman, The Idea of a University, p. 121. London: Longmans, 
Green & Co., 1919. 


pressed observers most were its emphasis on pupil interest and pupil 
freedom in a school atmosphere where the teacher was less a task- 
master and more a friendly guide. Children were free to select tasks 
they were interested in and free to move about in search of re- 
sources from the library, laboratory, field, and shop which might 
promote the completion of what they had undertaken. Naturally, 
such a school had need to be rich in resources so that no side of 
child development would be neglected. If such a regime developed 
individuality, initiative, self-reliance, and a moral autonomy in its 
pupils, it was but the normal expectation. 

Parenthetically, it might be mentioned that this far even con- 
servative and traditional educators had generally moved by the 
middle of the twentieth century. By that time, indeed, they had so 
absorbed many progressive practices that the Progressive Educa- 
tion Association had spent much of its driving protest force from 
the 1920*5. Yet, while copying many progressive practices, con- 
servatives and traditionalists still refused to support them theoreti- 
cally with Dewey's pragmatism. 

At a still more penetrating level, progressive educators them- 
selves split on the theoretical underpinning of their practices. One 
group followed the lead of Rousseau and Froebel. They took the 
romantic view of natural development. Reverencing the essential 
goodness of child nature, they held it their duty as parents and 
educators to let nature express itself freely and to interfere with 
its laws as little as possible. Because they reverenced the unique in 
child nature as well as the universal, they insisted on giving a high 
priority to the individual interests of the child in organizing the 
school program. Romantic progressives derived further support 
for their theory fom G. Stanley Hall and Sigmund Freud. Hall's 
theory, that the child must "recapitulate" racial experience just as his 
foetal development recapitulated organic evolution, led to the fur- 
ther theory of catharsis. According to this theory, if the child acts 
like a little savage when passing through and recapitulating the ab- 
original stage of culture, adults must let him behave that way to get 
it out of his system. Even more recently the romantic progressives 
have leaned mistakenly on Freudian psychoanalysis to support their 
theory of freedom for child nature. From seeing the warped per- 
sonalities which result from abnormal repression of natural drives, 


they have justified a system of education which encouraged un- 
inhibited expression of native impulses. 

The romantic wing of progressive education has attracted so much 
public attention, mostly unfavorable, that it has almost eclipsed the 
more sober and stable wing which drew its support largely from the 
leadership of John Dewey. Dewey, too, favored [the activity pro- 
gram with its attendant pupil interest and freedom^jBut instead of 
grounding this program in a theory of child nature, he grounded it in 
^his pragmatic theory of knowledge. 'Knowledge, he claimed, is the 
outcome of action.) Confronted with a problem, an adult or child 
constructs in imagination a theory or hypothesis of how it might be 
^solved. The truth or falsity of the proposed solution develops from 
whether, or not the consequences of acting on the hypothesis cor- 
roborate it. Under such a regime freedom and interest are necessary 
conditions for selecting appropriate ends and means in solving 
the child's project. The progressive in contrast to the traditional 
school, then, according to Dewey, allows^he child freedom to en- 
gage in interesting activities, not just because tfie child's active 
nature demands it (although that is important) but also because only 
by initiating activities and noting their consequences is an in- 
vestigator or learner warranted in asserting when knowledge is 
true, i 

In Dewey's conception of the progressive school, the role of 
intelligence is clearly instrumental. Taking his cue from Darwinian 
evolution, he regards human intelligence as a relatively latecomer on 
the world scene. Consequently, the school cultivates intelligence as 
a tool to solve problems, r This is very different from Aristotle and 
Newman, who would have education cultivate intelligence as an 
end in itself. For Dewey, taking his cue further from Darwinian 
evolution, there are no final educational ends in and of themselves. 
The ends of education are always subject to further reconstruction 
in the light of an uncertain and contingent future. 

Not everyone has the talent, or what is more necessary, the 
economic leisure to join that stratum of society known as the intelli- 
gentsia which cultivates intelligence as an end in itself. Yet everyone 
caii employ intelligence in the management of his daily affair^ In 
the 'one case, the cultivation of intelligence leads to the education 
of the few; and in the other, to the education of the many. Con- 


sequently, progressives claimed their educational philosophy to be 
more democratic than that of the traditionalists. Both philosophies, 
of course, supported the idea of} education for all, /but they dif- 
fered on the quality of the education to be so given. Thus, pro- 
gressives further claimed that their more ^upil-centered practices 
were more democratic than the teacher-centered practices of the 
traditional schpol. i 

With the coming of the great economic depression of the 1930*5, 
the romantic individualists in the "progressive-education" movement 
were severely taken to task for lack of a social orientation. Spurred 
on by the vital sense of direction fascist and communist education 
seemed to possess, many progressives turned social-planners and 
championed the notion that the school should take the initiative 
in bringing about a new social order cured of the defects of the 
present. The idea that progressive education should take a position 
in the van of social progress seemed entirely logical to many of its 
supporters. As a matter of fact, however, the left-wing group who 
captured "progressive education" for this cause received as much, if 
not more, unfavorable notice from the conservatively minded public 
as had the romantic individualists of the preceding decade. The 
traditional school considered itself the creature of the existing social 
order, not the creator of a new one! 

Those who thought that the school should take a position of 
leadership in reconstructing the social order were in constant need 
of the protection of academic freedom. When the ship of state 
rocked violently to and fro during the depression, conservatives 
were afraid that progressive educators might rock it just the bit 
further which would cause it to founder. Loyalty oaths, designed 
at this time to lessen the lurch by screening out "radical" teachers, 
became much more formidable threats to schools after the war when 
the world settled down to the prolonged cold war between the 
communist East and the democratic West. 

Contemporary Issues in American Education 

We have been at some pains to recount briefly the principal points 

of the controversy between traditional and "progressive education" 

all against the twentieth-century background of world political, 

economic, religious, and scientific tensionsnot only to account for 


the great interest of this century in educational philosophy but 4 S 
to point up the main issues in contemporary education to which the 
contributors of this yearbook will address themselves. It is mainly be- 
cause these issues remain unresolved as we return to them again after 
the war and because we need fresh insight into their solution in the 
second half of the century that TIT" invite a group of academic phi- 
losophers to bring their talents to bear on them in this yearbook. 

Now to summarize and restate the issues. Unfortunately, to state 
them in the detail they deserve is out of the question in a volume 
of this size. In the short space at the disposal of each contributor, it 
will only be possible to indicate the main issues. 

1. There is a current anxiety that modern education is adrift 'with- 
out rudder, chart, or compass. Is there a frame of reference by which 
we can defendably orient ourselves and thus regain a sense of direc- 
tion? It is all well and good to flatter ourselves that in the twentieth 
century we are substituting conscious and deliberate transmission 
and renewal of the culture for the automatic selection of the folk- 
ways. Yet we could easily deceive ourselves without a reliable point 
of reference. For instance, shall we take a monistic or pluralistic 
view of the culture we seek to screen and renew? Can we detect 
any enduring structures in culture, or is culture quite relativistic? 
By what standard of truth shall we judge our culture? Shall we 
teach young people that there is just one standard or that there are 
several standards: religious, metaphysical, and scientific? 

2. There is a current anxiety that, of the educatioml aims we have, 
too many are vague or conflicting and too few generate strong 
loyalty. By what standard can we validate our aims and values? 
By the ordinances of some deity? By aptness to human nature? By 
some subrational measure like "blood and soil"? By fitness to some 
particular time and place? Of course learning involves the continual 
reconstruction of experience but should that include a constant 
reconstruction of the aims of education as well? Or are there some 
aims of education which are not merely proximate ends but ulti- 
mate and perennial? Without answers to questions such as these, 
how can we tell which studies in the curriculum are the solid ones 
and which the fads and frills? Are social studies, such as the col- 
lege-preparatory ones, inherently and intrinsically valuable while 
others, like vocational ones, are only instrumentally valuable? 


3. There is a current anxiety that there has been a serious letdown 
in standards of instruction as a result of modern educational pro- 
cedures. In part, this anxiety grows out of an apprehension that 
too much attention is paid to the motivation of studies. All agree 
that no learning takes place without some motivation or interest. 
But should we go so far as to say that subjects in the curriculum 
derive their value from being liked by children, or do subjects on 
occasion have values independently of being liked so that children 
can be told they ought to learn them even though they are not 
interested in them? Must standards necessarily fall unless we take 
this latter position? Is it good discipline to study what you do not 
like? Does such study result in greater force of moral character? 

In part, the above anxiety grows out of the authority of instruc- 
tion. How shall we regard the deposit of truth in the curriculum? 
Does the truth antedate instruction or is it the outcome of activities 
undertaken in the classroom, in school shops or laboratories, or on 
field trips? Is the problem-solving method, predicated on the sci- 
entific method, the best way of teaching and learning the truth? 
Would a student meet higher standards if his instruction depended 
on other methods as well, e.g., intuition, pure reasoning, or the 
acceptance of authority? 

4. There is a current anxiety that ive are unsure of our democratic 
conception of education and that we have only fainthearted faith in 
it anyhow. Just what does democratic regard for the individual 
mean? Does it mean a laissez-faire, almost romantic freedom for 
each student to design his own house of knowledge? Does it mean 
a benevolent paternalism wherein the school authorities determine 
what is best for children and then see that they get it? Or does it 
involve a situation in which children, together with adults and other 
children, learn to share decisions and their consequences even though 
this may mean testing out many things for themselves and some- 
times reaching conclusions at variance with tradition? If the latter, 
should we expect the school to include controversial social issues 
in its curriculum? In that event, should the school take a neutral 
stand between the contending views, slant the outcome of instruction 
toward accepted democratic values, or encourage children to think 
in terms of a progressive reconstruction of the social order? This 


raises a question of the extent of our commitment to academic free- 
dom as a preparation for the civil liberties of American life. 

5. There is a current anxiety that the social framework of the 
school accords the child too much freedom and does not sub- 
ordinate him sufficiently to authority and control. This statement 
stirs the inquiry whether parents and teachers yield children too 
much initiative and are too prone to assign priority to children's 
interests. Would it be better if children's interests were more 
frequently subordinated to those of adults, if adults would exert 
more control over children again? If more external control is re- 
stored in education, how at the same time shall we build initiative, 
self-reliance, and moral autonomy in children? And if the authority 
of the adult regains some of its former importance, how at the same 
time shall we preserve education from becoming authoritarian and 

6. There is a current anxiety that the public schools, overanxious 
to avoid sectarianism, are neglecting religion and becoming too 
secular. Is there a religious dimension to education which is being 
neglected? Would more attention to such a dimension give current 
education a much-needed stability and sense of direction? Will 
more attention to religion in the public school confuse the proper 
spheres of God and Caesar? Should we re-examine the nineteenth- 
century tradition of the divorce of church and state in the field of 
public education? 

The Role of Philosophy in Educational Progress 
No doubt, as already stated, more issues could be listed. No doubt, 
too, the issues listed could have been drawn up under different 
categories. In terms of where we are in the middle of the twentieth 
century, however, the foregoing seem to be the areas in which the 
major contemporary issues lie. The issues have been stated largely 
in educational rather than bald philosophical terms. But the under- 
lying philosophical issues are not far to seek. The usual problems 
of philosophy lie just beneath the surface of these educational terms. 
The nature of knowledge, of value, of man, of society, and of the 
world must each be met before a satisfactory conclusion can be 
formed of what to do next in our present predicament. 


Education and Human Society: A Realistic View* 


The aim of this paper is to present a view of the nature of educa- 
tion which has emerged from the age-long discussions of realistic 
philosophers. In addition, we shall try to show as clearly as possible 
how this philosophic position implies certain definite answers to the 
important questions with which we are dealing in this volume. 
Limitations of space will often prevent thorough discussion of con- 
troversial matters. But we shall try to give a clear and coherent 
outline of the realistic view and to refer at least briefly to the 
evidence on which it is based. 

Basic Orientation 


Realistic philosophy is best defined in terms of three basic theses- 
metaphysical, epistemological, and ethical to which it is definitely 

The Metaphysical Thesis. The universe is made up of real, sub- 
stantial entities, existing in themselves and ordered to one another by 
extramental relations. These entities and relations really exist whether 
they are known or not. To be is not the same as to be known. We 
ourselves and the other entities around us actually exist, independent 
of our opinions and desires. This may be called the thesis of in- 

The Episteinological Thesis. These real entities and relations can 
be known in part by the human mind as they are in themselves. Ex- 
perience shows us that all cognition is intentional or relational in 
character. Every concept is of something; every judgment about 

* Educational Consultant: Professor Harry Broudy, Framingham (Massa- 
chusetts) State Teachers College. 


something. The realist holds that this is a peculiar relation by which 
the knowing act becomes united with, in a nonmaterial sense, or 
directly identified with something really existent. The mind does 
not become physically one with its object. To know an explosion is 
not to explode. Nevertheless, cognition is not merely a matter of 
containing states within one's self. To have gray cells inside the 
cortex is not to know this fact. .To know something is to become 
relationally identified with an existent entity as it is. This is the 
thesis of direct realism. 

The Ethical Thesis. Such knowledge, especially that which treats 
of human nature, can provide us with immutable and trustworthy 
principles for the guidance of individual and social action. All men 
share certain common traits which determine vague tendencies in 
every child. These tendencies must be realized together in an order- 
ly way if human life is to be really fulfilled. In subhuman entities 
such tendencies are determinate, inflexible, and realized automatical- 
ly with the sole support of external natural agencies. In man this is 
not the case. He has not been endowed with an exhaustive array of 
inflexible instincts which automatically propel him to the proper acts. 
Instead, he has been given very flexible tendencies together with the 
power of cognition by which he may rationally understand his es- 
sential needs and freely determine his conduct in accordance there- 
with. The invariable, universal pattern of action, individual as well 
as social, required for the completion of human nature is called 
the moral law or natural law. By self-observation every individual 
has some minimal knowledge of it. By disciplined study of human 
nature and the events of history, this knowledge may be increased 
and clarified. Such knowledge is the only trustworthy guide for 
human action. 

These realistic theses 1 are at least dimly recognized by the original 
philosophic insight, or common sense as we call it, of mankind. 
While we are acting, we all know that we are surrounded by in- 
dependent forces that help or hinder us. We recognize genuine 
knowledge in the realistic sense as an actual factor else we should 
not consult a doctor when we are ill. This knowledge also yields us 
some understanding of the law of nature and its inexorable sanc- 

i. For a fuller discussion of these theses, cf. The Return to Reason, pp. 
357-63. Edited by John Wild. Chicago: Henry Regnery Co., 1953. 


tions. Is there anyone who does not know that babies should be fed, 
for otherwise they cannot live; and that children ought to be edu- 
cated, for otherwise they lapse into ignorance and social life be- 
comes impossible? Our common sense is notoriously and incurably 
realistic; and the proper function of philosophy is to extend and to 
clarify this basic philosophic knowledge, to make it more exact, and 
to protect it from distortion and confusion. 

As a matter of fact, this has happened in every highly developed 
civilization where philosophy has been pursued in a disciplined 
manner for a long period of time from the Far East and Middle 
East to the West. The neo-Confucian tradition in China is pre- 
dominantly realistic. The world exists independently of its being 
known. But the human mind can know it as it really is, and a uni- 
versal moral law is clearly recognized. Two early schools of Hindu 
thought were basically realistic, though later submerged in the 
idealistic currents of Vedanta philosophy. But even here we find such 
a realistic conception as that of the natural right to life deeply in- 
grained in the Hindu mind. 2 The best Mohammedan thought stem- 
ming from the great Aristotelian commentators Averroes and Avi- 
cenna is predominantly realistic, though in this and other traditions 
the concept of natural law has been confused with many accidental 
accretions coming from religious sources. 

The vague, primordial realism of common sense is as widespread 
as man himself. But a more exact realism, as a special pursuit of dis- 
ciplined thought, is found in all the highly developed civilizations. 
Up to the present time, however, this mode of philosophical reflec- 
tion has been most intensively pursued and has achieved its most 
profound and articulate expressions in our own Western culture. 3 
Inaugurated by Plato and Aristotle in ancient Greece, it was 
intensively pursued in the Middle Ages by St. Augustine, Aquinas, 
and their followers. Entering into a period of decline in the four- 
teenth and fifteenth centuries, it was eclipsed by Cartesian idealism 
which soon became the dominant philosophy of modern times. 
Nevertheless, it was still cultivated and intensively pursued with 

2. <Qf. P. T. Raju, India's Culture and Her Problems, pp. 76-77. Jaipur, India: 
University of Rajputana Press, 1952. 

3. For an account of realism in the West, cf. John Wild, Introduction to 
Realistic Philosophy, chap. i. New York: Harper & Bros., 1948. 


fruitful results by such first-rate minds as Thomas Reid, Maine de 
Biran, Trendelenburg, Brentano, and many others. Now, with the 
decline of subjectivism and idealism, it is receiving widespread 
attention once more. 


Realism is strongly indicated by the common insight of mankind. 
Unless our human faculties are basically distorted and unreliable, 
it is the way of truth. But the common sense of men is vague and 
hazy. It is easily confused and led into oversimplification and error. 
If we really lived according to these errors, we would soon be 
brought to disaster and misery. But we may accept and elaborate 
them intellectually without any immediate effect on our lives. When 
artificially cultivated in this way, they have a strange fascination 
for many minds. 

They usually consist of oversimplified versions of the truth. 
Everything is reduced to mind, as in idealism, or to physical stuff, 
as in materialism. This gives the illusion of far-reaching insight 
with little strain on the mind or the imagination. From these theories 
we may derive conclusions strikingly different from those that rule 
our actual lives. This gives the impression of novelty and originality. 
Hence, from the time of the ancient Greeks, many of these over- 
simplified accounts of the world have been current in our culture. 
Many of them are still current at this present period of instability and 

Idealism is now on the wane but is still exerting an important in- 
fluence on many different modes of thought. It is sharply distinct 
from realism as we have defined it. The Kantian idealist would 
accept the first thesis of independence. He holds that there is a 
noumenal, unknowable reality which exists independently of us. But 
he rejects the other two theses. Knowledge is viewed as a con- 
structive process rather than as an act of assimilation or apprehen- 
sion. Hence, the human mind can never know things in themselves 
as they really are, but only as they are warped by the cognitive 
process. The Kantian philosopher accepts a universal moral law. 
This seems like moral realism. But it is not, for this moral law is not 
discovered in the very nature of things but is rather laid down 
autonomously by the mind of man without any empirical ground. 

WILD 21 

The Hegelian idealists not only reject the second and third theses 
but the first as well. There is no purely physical existence at all. 
The whole world is conceived as a vast spiritual or mental process in 
which pure thought develops into ever richer, higher, and freer 
forms. Being is not distinguished from being known. 

Existentialism is a violent reaction against this sort of idealism. It 
holds that existence, or being, is radically different from being 
known. The former is subjective and in itself; the latter objective 
and relational. Rational thought is universal and abstract. Existence 
is individual and concrete. In this and in many other respects, 
existentialism is a return to realism. But it has gone so far in separat- 
ing existence from thought that it has fallen into a type of ir- 
rationalism which denies that anything may be truly known at all 
as an object of reason. 4 This disparagement of universal concepts 
and judgments on which exact communication depends and the 
moral individualism or subjectivism to which it leads mark off this 
mode of thought from any type of realism. 

Positivism is an even more extreme reaction against the idealistic 
theory of mind as the creator of reality and the weird and un- 
verifiable speculations to which this view has led such thinkers as 
Schelling and Hegel. The positivists rightly claim that unless a 
theory can be directly verified by or logically deduced from em- 
pirical data it is worthless. According to them, all such data belong 
to the province of some science. There is no philosophic evidence by 
which basic theories can be checked. Hence, they are dismissed as 
unimportant and even as meaningless. 

The realist believes that, in addition to the measurable data of 
the sciences, there are vast ranges of nonquantitative data, such as 
existence, knowledge, and change, which are too pervasive to fall 
within the isolated province of any special science. While this evi- 
dence is not subject to the quantitative methods of science, it can, 
nevertheless, be described and analyzed. For example, the mental 
process of deliberation and choice, as it occurs in the concrete, in- 
cludes nonquantitative factors which cannot be weighed and meas- 
ured. We cannot spread a choice out on a microscopic slide. How- 
ever, we can study it and describe its essential features as they actual- 

4. Cf. James Collins, The Existentialists, pp. 189-96. Chicago: Henry Reg- 
nery Co., 1952. 


ly occur. 5 This attempt to describe the qualitative structure of 
empirical fact is now called phenomenology. 6 The realist claims that 
such an analysis, if carried out in a disciplined way, will show that 
the three basic theses of realism and other related theories are actual- 
ly in agreement with the empirical facts. The positivist sharply dis- 
agrees. He claims that these theories either fall within the province 
of some definite science, like psychology, or that they attempt to 
answer meaningless questions which never should be raised. 

At the present time, materialism, or that vague form of materialism 
known as natpralism, is extremely influential in the Western world. 
Just as the idealist claims that all being is mind or a state of mind, 
so materialism claims that all being is quantitative and material. 
(According to realism, being is wider in scope and cannot be 
reduced to either.) Man is no exception. He is regarded merely as 
a highly complex physical organism acting according to the same 
kind of law that holds of nature generally. Human awareness is 
conceived as an intricate response of the central nervous system 
which, if consistently developed, leads to subjectivism, for such 
responses are necessarily contained within the organism. There is 
little place for human freedom, since physical processes are deter- 
mined by physical antecedents. Any notion of a Divine Being higher 
than man has to be rejected. The whole world of nature is held to be 
self-sustaining. Value is interpreted as the satisfaction of psycho- 
physical propensities or interests. In the West this view has led to 
a utilitarian relativism in moral theory. Each individual and each 
culture has its own particular pattern of interests. What is good 
for one is bad for another. The only remedy for this chaos is a uni- 
form process of conditioning under the direction of scientific 
experts. 7 

Of all the many varieties of naturalism, the dialectical materialism 
of the East is now by far the most profound and thoroughly de- 
veloped. It differs in certain respects from Western naturalism. 
Matter is conceived in a less passive way. It moves itself spontaneous- 
ly by dialectical laws that first bring it into opposition with itself 

5. Aristotle has given such a description of choice in his Nicomachean 
Ethics, Bk. Ill, chaps, ii and iii. 

6. Cf. The Return to Reason^ op. cit. 9 pp. 47-55. 

7. Cf. B. F. Skinner, Walden Two. New York: Macniillan Co., 1948. 

) \V I L D 23 

and then lead on to higher syntheses. Human history is the highest 
stage of this cosmic process. It must culminate eventually in the 
triumph of the working class and the communist society. This idea 
of moral values as grounded on cosmic laws mitigates the relativism 
which has characterized materialistic ethical theory elsewhere and 
helps to elicit that moral conviction and fervor which is an im- 
portant factor in the spread of communism. 

All forms of materialism would accept the first thesis of realism, 
that of independence. The world exists in itself, apart from our de- 
sires and knowledge. Most materialists would wish to accept the 
second thesis, that this existence can be known as it really is. But 
here, they are embarrassed by their restricted physicalist categories 
which prevent them from clearly recognizing the peculiar relation of 
intentional identity. No physical entity is physically identical with 
another such entity. This is a downright contradiction. Every physi- 
cal influence is individuated and subjectivized by the physical entity 
receiving it. Hence, no materialistic theory of knowledge has yet 
been formulated which escapes the absurdities of subjectivism. So, 
in spite of what he may wish, there is a grave question as to whether 
a materialist can consistently accept the second thesis. 

The sharpest issue concerns the third thesis on natural law and the 
view of man that this implies. The realist holds that the human intel- 
lect and will cannot be adequately understood in terms of purely 
physicalist categories. The materialist denies this. According to 
realism, all men share certain essential tendencies which require that 
certain moral principles be obeyed by all men if they are to live 
authentic human lives. Materialists are skeptical of all such moral 
generalizations. The realist believes that men are free within limits 
to act as they choose in the light of what they understand. Thus, 
they may violate the moral law if they so decide. The materialist, 
on the other hand, is a determinist. Men may be called free if their 
acts are externally unimpeded. But freedom of choice is a delusion. 
Human thoughts and acts are uniquely determined by laws over 
which we have no control. 

In addition to these moral differences, there is also a basic cosmo- 
logical issue. In the light of the empirical evidence available to us the 
realist holds that we ourselves and all other things of which we 
have any direct evidence are dependent and contingent. None of 


thefee beings necessarily exists. A world made up of such dependent 
entities cannot be self-sufficient but requires a nondependent, extrin- 
sic source. As we have seen, the materialist denies any reason for sup- 
posing such a source. This, of course, leads to divergent attitudes 
toward religion. 

This must suffice for a brief account of the general nature of 
realistic philosophy and its differences from other modes of thought. 
We must now turn to the realistic view of human education. 

Educational Aims and Values 

From the time of Plato, realists have held that education is an es- 
sential feature of our life and that it cannot be understood without 
.examining human society and grasping clearly those peculiar traits 
that distinguish it from animal communities. 


Such an animal community as a hive of bees is made up of many 
individuals acting together in co-operative ways. These acts are per- 
formed with a minimum degree of flexibility, being adjusted to 
changing circumstance by sensory awareness. Thus, the bee is di- 
rected to a particular flower by sight and smell. But the general 
pattern of social activity is automatically determined by inherited in- 
stincts common to the species. If these inherited modes of response 
fail to adjust the group to its environment, this group will be elimi- 
nated and replaced by others with better hereditary equipment. These 
responses proceed inflexibly and without any rational control. 

The human community is also made up of many individuals acting 
together in co-operative ways for the benefit of all. The analogy 
with animal groups is so striking as to have been noted. It has even 
exerted an important influence on certain types of social theory. It is 
equally important, however, to note the basic differences. These are 
primarily two. In the first place, the human infant has not been en- 
dowed with a fixed set of instincts that automatically direct him 
to the required activities. He remains flexible and indeterminate 
throughout the prolonged period of childhood. If this indeterminate 
condition were not overcome in some way, he would be the most 
helpless of the animals. What, then, takes the place of instinct? 

This brings us to the second positive difference. Instead of instinct, 

WILD 25 

man has been endowed with a complex and delicate faculty of ap- 
prehension whose basic aspects are named sense and reason in our 
language. This cognitive capacity, residing in every normal individ- 
ual, enables the human group to understand its needs and its en- 
vironment, to communicate this understanding to its members, and 
to direct its action in accordance therewith. These facts are evident 
and unquestioned. They lead to certain great advantages as well as 
to grave dangers. 

On the positive side, we may note first of all that the revealing 
power of the human cognitive power is very great. When properly 
exercised, it is capable of manifesting many details and whole ranges 
of facts completely concealed from the other animals. This results 
in modes of action far more complex and far more effective in 
satisfying needs than are found elsewhere. Second, the range of this 
cognitive power is very wide. It manifests many different lands of 
fact. This results in a vast variety of human action and a multiple 
division of labor not found in any subhuman community. These are 
pure advantages. But the extension of insight leads to a third factor 
whose value is more ambiguous. 

This is a great increase in the flexibility of human acts. This pene- 
trates not merely to minor details which may be momentarily shifted 
in the light of new information but also to the basic patterns. Thus, 
human cultures differ greatly from one another, and even a single 
culture when highly developed goes through a fluid history in which 
not only its subordinate activities but also its basic patterns of life 
are thoroughly transformed. This unique capacity for self-direction 
and choice among divergent alternatives, made possibly by added 
knowing power, is attended by great risks and dangers. 


Knowledge which is both accurate and far-reaching is very hard 
to achieve. Mistakes may be made. Hence, a way of action promising 
great results may be chosen which, however, is not adequately 
grounded in the nature of things. Second, even though a mode of 
action is known by some to be sound, it may not be communicated 
with sufficient appeal to elicit the serious aspiration or even the ap- 
proval of the community as a whole. Then either error must persist 
or force must be used. But men will not work with energy or de- 


votion for something they cannot understand and love. This failure 
of that process of communication we know as education has caused 
the downfall of many civilizations. It is confronted with many ob- 
stacles. The problem of transmitting knowledge to other adults is 
serious enough. But this is accentuated by the fact of death. 

The process of acquiring knowledge is slow and arduous. Only 
the human individual can do this. But his life is short. No sooner 
do men gain some insight than their powers weaken and they die. 
Their places, of course, are taken by newborn infants who, at first, 
know nothing at all. Unless the essential activities of the community 
and its guiding knowledge can be reincarnated in the coming gen- 
eration, the human community will fall into an ignorant chaos and 
disintegrate. This transmission of knowledge is the task of education. 
Without it no human society can maintain itself. In this sense, it is 
natural or essential to human life. As a matter of fact, no community, 
no matter how primitive, has ever been observed which did not 
develop some means of communication by which this vital problem 
of the transmission of knowledge was not met in some way. But 
here an important distinction needs to be made. 

All men are by nature social and communicative to some degree. 
There is a rough-and-ready way in which human activities tend to 
communicate themselves. The child is naturally curious and imita- 
tive. 8 He does what he sees others doing and picks up rudimentary 
skills in this way. The young apprentice works in the shop with 
his master and learns the necessary skills by doing. Sporadic trades 
and disciplines are picked up in this way. Basic attitudes are passed 
on by family discipline, the telling of tales, and tribal interaction. 
This rough-and-ready informal education is going on all the time 
in every type of society. In primitive communities it is sufficient to 
communicate the necessary knowledge and thus to hold the group 
together, the basic aim of all education. But it is subject to certain 

First of all, practical knowledge gained in this way by active 
imitation is deficient in theoretical insight. The object is known 

8. For an analysis of this imitative process and its importance for an under- 
standing of the history of civilization, cf. Arnold Toynbee, A Study of His- 
tory (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1947), pp. 215-16 et passim. Toynbee, 
however, does not distinguish this imitative procedure from formal educa- 
tiona defect in his analysis. 

WILD 27 

only as it responds to external influence, not as it is in itself. Such 
procedures are justified only pragmatically. They may reach the 
desired end. But no one knows why. There is a lack of theoretical 
grounds and reasons. Unless this defect is corrected, the activity 
is apt to sink into a blind routine in which incidental matters are 
not clearly distinguished from what is essential and really grounded 
in the nature of things. 9 

This is the source of another important defect, inflexibility. A 
given routine may work in certain normal circumstances, not in 
others. When the situation changes, either the master of such a 
routine is left helpless or he must work out another procedure by 
slow trial and error which in turn has to be memorized and applied 
ex post facto to a given situation. It is only the abstract principles 
of pure theory which can free us from slavery to such detailed rou- 
tines. This is why primitive cultures, weak on pure theory, are so 
clearly dominated by rigid cakes of custom. 

Another defect is the incoherence and disorder of many blind 
routines devised to meet isolated needs and interests. An ad hoc 
unity may be achieved by mythical construction. But this is in con- 
stant danger of being overthrown by new and unwelcome fact. 
Genuine, stable integration of the whole culture can be attained 
only by universal principles grounded on observation. 

These defects finally result in the loss of rational appeal which 
is one important factor in eliciting that common devotion to common 
goals which is necessary for healthy social life. Of course, intelligi- 
bility is not the only source of appeal. Experience shows that sheer 
familiarity, forceful rhetoric, and heroic examples can arouse in- 
tense devotion and even sacrifice for wholly unjustifiable purposes. 
But intelligibility also has a charm that must be taken into account. 
When reasonable questions cannot be answered, when certain prac- 
tices seem to have no relation to basic cultural aims, and especially 
when these very aims become unjustifiable, then either reason itself 
must be discouraged, at the risk of social ignorance and error, or 
the common aspiration is dimmed and weakened. 

The organized formal education of well-developed civilizations 
is an attempt to overcome these grave defects. 

9. Cf. ibid., pp. 275-79. 



The formal school is the one institution of advanced society that 
is not found in primitive cultures not even in a rudimentary form. 
What is this institution, and what are its essential functions? 

First, the school is the home of pure theory. Practical disciplines 
are also taught; we now have schools of engineering, architecture, 
business, law, medicine, etc. But in the school these procedures are 
taught not pragmatically but in relation to those pure theoretical 
principles which lie at their root. The student must learn to become 
detached from all special needs and interests and to examine things 
as they really are in themselves. Of course, he is supposed to gain 
some mastery of active techniques that will work in certain cir- 
cumstances. But he is also supposed to know something about 'why 
they work and how to change them very quickly to meet unusual 
circumstances. Such practical mastery comes only from the abstract 
study of pure theory which reveals the ultimate grounds and reasons 
for the way things act in the concrete. Thus, the formal student of 
engineering must know something of pure physics and chemistry, 
the formal student of medicine something of pure physiology, and 
the trained social worker something of human nature and the struc- 
ture of the human group. 

The peculiar function of the school is to cherish and to cultivate 
pure knowledge. Hence, it must be detached from concrete life 
and practice. The scholar is a man of leisure (crxoXi?), not in the 
sense that he does nothing, but in the sense that he must be released 
from the immediate demands of concrete action. The practical man 
resents this. To him it seems like doing nothing. The academy, the 
home of pure theory and learning for its own sake, is an ivory-tower 
playground, remote and impractical. As a matter of fact, this is a 
terrible mistake. Of course, truth has a value of its own. It is good 
to know something as it really is. But, in addition to this, it is di- 
rectly relevant to human action. A practical procedure that is not 
grounded on the truth is never really practical. Pure theory is the 
unique possession of the academy. Its major aim is to cultivate such 
theory, to transmit the tools by which it is acquired, to preserve what 
has been gained, and to discover more. All other aims are derived 
from this. 

w j i. o 29 

A second aim that follows directly from this scholarly interest 
in pure theory is to extend our limited vision of the truth, to gain 
as complete a view as possible. The real scholar is never ready to be 
pigeonholed and compartmentalized. He is always on the alert for 
the connections of things, always prowling around the border lines 
which are supposed to separate one field from another. Once the love 
of truth has possessed a man's soul, he cannot rest satisfied with a 
partial view or anything short of the whole. This also requires the 
freedom of detachment, for the horizon of the man of action is 
Always partial and restricted. It is the price he must pay for practical 
efficiency. The engineer is absorbed in building a bridge, the doctor 
in curing a particular patient. As a human being, he is concerned 
with living his own life as best he can. The statesman works for 
the welfare of his own country. Even the prophet and the saint are 
working for the welfare of mankind. But after all, what is man in 
the cosmos as a whole? In order to achieve the broadest perspectives, 
one must become detached like the traveler lost in a forest. If he is 
to gain a panoramic view, he must stop walking and climb a tree. 
The school is, therefore, the home of those integrative hypotheses 
and theories where an attempt is made to see things all together as 
they really are. 

At first this seems irrelevant and even opposed to the more re- 
stricted ends of practice; but not on a second view. The most dread- 
ful evils are perpetrated by persons obsessed by some limited good, 
but oblivious to others much more important. The range of values 
open to man is very rich. His ultimate end is surely to achieve as 
many of these as is possible to the highest degree of intensity for 
everyone. How else may he be guided to this ultimate end except 
by a detached study of man as a whole and the world in which he 
lives? But this means an all-inclusive view. It is a second derivative 
function of the school to interpret and to criticize the cultural pat- 
tern as a whole, to enable each student to understand its myriad 
functions and how they fit into a meaningful structure and, where 
pey do not, to point out why. 

In the third place, we must notice that the school is the source 
of that critical ferment and dynamism which is so characteristic of 
advanced civilizations and which distinguishes them from primitive 
societies. Such societies lack ivory-tower academies devoted to pure 


theory. In a rudimentary form they possess religion, government, 
the family, military organization, agriculture, animal husbandry, pro- 
duction and exchangeevery social institution known to man. There 
is only one we do not find; this is the school. They have no scholars 
free from practical preoccupations who are able to devote them- 
selves to the study of things as they really are. Hence, they lack all 
basis for criticism. Having discovered some satisfying way of deal- 
ing with something in the concrete, they find that it "works." So 
they are content and fall into a rut of intricate, haphazard practices, 
uniformly repeated through the centuries. 

To the scholar, knowing something of human need and under- 
standing the nature of the thing itself and the laws of its behavior, 
better ways of dealing with it soon occur. So the school, when it is 
really detached and functioning in a healthy way, is ever the source 
of new ideas and social fermentation. The man of action has no time 
for long-range theoretical perspectives. His horizon is that of the 
status quo. No matter how irrational or avoidable they may be, the 
problems here are sufficient for him. To gain grounded vision for 
the future, men must be freed from this restricted perspective and 
the practical obsessions that attend it. They must have time to re- 
flect and think. They must have schole, freedom for truth. Men of 
affairs are never creative. In our own culture genuinely new ideas 
and criticisms have come from the students, the priests, the scholars 
with time for the abstract truth. In the institution of the school this 
value is socially recognized. The wish to break down its detachment 
and to absorb it into the maelstrom of concrete life is really a wish 
to return to the dead uniformity of primitive society. 

Finally, in the fourth place, it is the duty of the school to teach 
these theoretical and practical principles and procedures in such a 
way as to elicit zeal and devotion. The teacher as an authority 
exercises a mediating, communicating function. His first duty is to 
gain firm ground, to have something sound and true to communicate. 
But this does not exhaust the matter. His next duty is really to com- 
municate it, to see that it is presented in such a way as to take 
possession of the student. Even though the truth is known, if it 
cannot be transmitted and maintained, culture will die. At the level 
of the child it is a matter of instilling sound habits and convictions 
required for adult learning and practice. Here, what is known of 

WILD 31 

child psychology, intelligence, capacity for abstraction, and resist- 
ance to suggestion can be of great assistance. At the mature level, 
where it is largely a matter of transmitting ideas and theories, clarity, 
economy of words, and dialectical ability are more important. At 
every level deep conviction, rhetoric, and persuasive force are re- 
quired of the genuine teacher. Education is the art of communicating 
truth. It has not been fully achieved until this truth not only lies 
within but actually possesses the mind and heart of the student. 10 

By way of summary we may say that the aim of education, as 
the realist sees it, is fourfold: to discern the truth about things as 
they really are and to extend and integrate such truth as is known; 
to gain such practical knowledge of life in general and of professional 
functions in particular as can be theoretically grounded and justified; 
and, finally, to transmit this in a coherent and convincing way both 
to young and to old throughout the human community. 

The Educational Process and Curriculum 
As the realist sees it, this process of communication is both theo- 
retical and practical; but the theoretical is prior. 11 


The child, of course, should be interested in what he is learning. 
But it does not follow that whatever the child is interested in is, 
therefore, valuable. This is absurd. The skill of the elementary 
teacher lies in eliciting the interest of the child in the right things, 
especially in grasping the truth for its own sake. At the early stages 
no psychological or rhetorical technique should be neglected which 
is capable of strengthening this urge. When a mathematical principle 
has been understood, the child's attention should be drawn at once 
to the problems this enables him to solve. No opportunity should be 
lost to point out the principles of pure science which underlie mod- 
ern technology. Language and grammar should be taught as essential 
phases of that mysterious process of apprehension by which the 
actual structure of things is mentally reflected and expressed, and 
by which such knowledge is achieved. 

10. Cf. Plato, Republic, Bk. Ill, pp. 104-5. Edited by F. M. Cornford. Oxford, 
England: Oxford University Press. 

11. Cf. Aristotle, Nicowachean Ethics, Bk. VI. 


Practical training in music, the manual arts, and the fine aits 
should, of course, be given. But, with the possible exception of 
advanced technical schools, the major emphasis must be placed on 
theoretical insight and assimilation. In this connection it is important 
to realize that the theory of practice is theory, not practice. To ob- 
serve and to think about an intense activity is thinking, not acting. 
Thus, to visit debates in the United Nations or to watch the or- 
ganized procedures of a factory belong to the realm of theory. Such 
concrete objects are apt to be very confusing. Too much is going 
on. Not much can be learned unless the way has been prepared by 
abstract analysis, which makes it possible to focus what is essential. 
But this is an attempt to gain insight. We are moving in the field of 
theory. Bearing this in mind, we can see that even the most progres- 
sive school with its "activity" curriculum is less unintellcctual than 
is often supposed. Unless it loses all distinctive character, the school 
mu^t devote itself to the cultivation of insight and understanding. 


VThe realist cannot agree with Dewey's lifelong polemic against 
classical philosophy and his instrumentalist attempt to degrade rea- 
son from its natural guiding position to a subservient one. When 
one follows Dewey in reducing all reflection to practical reflection, 
this is inevitable, since practical deliberation presupposes an interest 
already there. But this theory is not true. All problems are not 
practical. 12 There are theoretical problems as well. Investigating, 
finding out, and discovering are not the same as deliberating, schem- 
ing, and plotting. 13 Both are necessary. Dewey himself has clearly 
recognized this in a reply to his critics. 14 Thus at one point he says: 
"I expressly recognize the existence of direct perception of objects 

12. Cf. B. Othanel Smith, William O. Stanley, and J. Harlan Shores, Funda- 
mentals of Curriculum Development, pp. 558-72 (Yonkers-on-Hudson, New 
York: World Book Co., 1950), where the distinction between units of discov- 
ery and normative units is clearly recognized. These authors are certainly not 
unfriendly to the instrumentalist position. Hence, their recognition of this 
distinction (between the theoretical and practical) is all the more impressive. 

13. Cf. Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Bk. VI, chaps, i-ix, for a clear ac- 
count of this important distinction. 

14. The Philosophy of John Dewey, pp. 556-78. (Library of Living Philos- 
ophers, Vol. I.) Edited by Paul Arthur Schilpp. Evanston, Illinois: North- 
western University, 1939. 

WILD 33 

and of direct apprehensions of meanings and of things." 15 This "di- 
rect apprehension" of objects as they are is, of course, what realists 
have always meant by theoretical cognition. This is not the same 
as scheming and planning for an indeterminate future. Both types 
of inquiry occur, but theory always comes first, at least in some 
vague form. Theory has no practical presuppositions; but practice 
always presupposes some theory. Ultimate values, for example, must 
first be simply seen and understood before we can do anything about 
them. Practical reason alone, in the absence of pure insight, is left 
without any stable grounds and must fall prey to random desires 
and interests. 

From a realistic point of view the effects of this neglect of direct 
cognition on education have been deplorable, though mixed with 
others which have been fruitful. Against a sterile traditionalism, it 
was certainly correct to urge that the child should not be regarded 
as a passive, uncommitted spectator, merely gaping at objects brought 
before him. The child is always active and committed. But among 
activities to which he is committed by nature are those of con- 
ceiving, judging, and arguing, by which he may come to understand 
what things are, and whether and why they are. With some such 
insight into the reasons and causes of himself and the objects around 
him, he may then hope to live like a man and to guide himself 
soundly in the trials and tribulations of history. Such understanding 
is anything but passive. It requires arduous effort and strict disci- 
pline. The special function of the school is to cultivate these activi- 
ties and these disciplines. 

It was correct, however, to point out that the school is not ex- 
clusively theoretical. It is profoundly concerned with practical prob- 
lems and especially with the major problems of contemporary life. 
The child, of course, is living while he learns. But reason is not the 
whole of life; it is, rather, an essential part. The school is not the 
whole community but a vital institution within it. Its aim is not 
merely to plunge the student into the maelstrom of life. This happens 
anyway. Its function is, rather, to approach practical problems in a 
reflective, critical way, searching for the verifiable grounds of sane 
solutions. Its duty is to offer not merely raw experience but, rather, 
direction and guidance. This can come only from insight. 

15. Ibid., pp. 568-69. 



The practical pursuits of men are infinitely wide in their variety. 
Hence, the pressure of vocationalism has introduced a vast variety 
of new subjects into the curriculum. This has had a disintegrating 
effect which the realist deplores. How can an institution exert a 
rational and ordering effect when it is itself in an irrational and 
chaotic condition? This condition is due primarily to a skepticism 
concerning the existence of any real natural order on which an 
ordered curriculum might be firmly grounded. How strange to see 
the way in which many academies at the present time are spreading 
skepticism and mistrust of those very guiding faculties which it 
is their peculiar duty to improve and cultivate, like housebuilders 
devoting half their time to the destruction and mistrust of the 
homes they build! The realist is disturbed by this chaotic situation. 
He believes that it can be finally met only by the clearer and more 
widespread recognition of certain essential facts about man. These 
facts fall into a natural order which should be reflected in the 
curriculum. He is deeply concerned with the problems of dis- 
tinguishing what is essential from what is incidental and of simplify- 
ing and ordering the curriculum. 

There is certainly a basic core of knowledge that every human 
person ought to know in order to live a genuinely human life as 
a member of the world community, of his own nation, and of the 
family. This should be studied by every student and should be 
presented at levels of increasing complexity and discipline through- 
out the entire curriculum. First of all, (a) the student should learn 
to use the basic instruments of knowledge, especially his own 
language. In order to understand it more clearly and objectively, 
he should gain some knowledge of at least one foreign language as 
well. In addition, he should be taught the essentials of humane 
logic 16 and elementary mathematics. Then (), he should become 
acquainted with the methods of physics, chemistry, and biology 
and the basic facts so far revealed by these sciences. In the third 
place (), he should study history and the sciences of man. Then 
(<f), he should gain some familiarity with the great classics of his 
own and of world literature and art. Finally (e), in the later stages 

1 6. That is the logic we use in thinking intelligibly about reality in living 

WILD 35 

of this basic training, he should be introduced to philosophy and to 
those basic problems which arise from the attempt to integrate 
knowledge and practice. Here he should be shown that the world 
we inhabit is not pure chaos but possesses some stable structure on 
which certain moral principles at least may be solidly grounded. Of 
course there should be room for the choice of additional, periph- 
eral subjects to train exceptional capacities, to realize special in- 
terests, and to prepare for the professions. But this central core, 
based on the nature of our human world, should be given to 
everyone. 17 

As to how these subjects should be taught, there are certain 
questions of efficiency, subject to quantitative measurement, which 
may be left to the sciences. There are other qualitative questions, 
however, which call for philosophic observation and analysis. Here 
are a few suggestions concerning each of the basic, core divisions. 

Language and grammar could probably be far more vitally and 
coherently taught than they now are if they were conceived within 
the framework of a humane logic of intelligible discourse. 18 Such 
an approach would enable the student to understand concepts, 
propositions, and arguments as tools for the apprehension of reality 
and, thus, to grasp them in a far more vital and functional way 
through the uses to which they are put in actual thought and com- 
munication. The structure of language could then be understood, 
not as an arbitrary convention, but, rather, as a way of reflecting 
the nature of reality as it really is. 

In the general study of science, method and critical experiments 
should be emphasized. Broad questions of epistemology and cos- 
mology should not be dodged when relevant. Great care should 
be taken to refute the widespread delusion that these sciences have 
access to all the data there are and that all disciplined knowledge, 
therefore, belongs to them. 

In the study of history, an intensive effort should now be made to 

17. For a lucid discussion of vocationalism, cf. H. S. Broudy, "Realism and 
the Philosohy of Education," The Return to Reason, op. cit., pp. 307-9. 

1 8. For an account of the referential logic of intelligible discourse, cf. 
Henry Veatch, Intentional Logic, especially chaps, i and ii (New Haven, 
Connecticut: Yale University Press, 1952). Such a logic is not artificial but 
humane in the sense that it describes and analyzes the reflective processes as 
they are actually used in human thought. 

The study of the great classics of art and literature, especially 
English literature, should, of course, be maintained at every stage 
of the curriculum from beginning to end. In the earliest stages of 
history and literature, great pains should be taken to avoid anything 
like an unbiased or objective approach. The young child cannot 
distinguish this from a negative attitude of disinterest or condemna- 
tion. Every effort should be made to present the great ideals of 
Western civilization to the child in as sympathetic and appealing a 
manner as possible. Outright condemnation is better than objectivity 
which kills the subject at once. The tendency of many teachers to 
treat young children as little Ph.D.'s has had a debilitating effect 
on our culture. 

Foundational questions should never be dodged in any field. The 
philosophic problems to which they lead should also be discussed 
with different degrees of thoroughness at different age levels. Near 
the end of the process, every student should be exposed to a critical 
course in the history of philosophy, as in the French Lyc6e. What- 
ever the philosophic position of a teacher may be in whatever 
field, he should take pains to express it and to defend it as clearly, 
openly, and coherently as possible. This is the way to stimulate 
rational thought. The attempt to hide behind a cloak of supposed 
objectivity leads always to irrational bias and dogmatism. 

The School and Society 

what is the relation of the school to the society that sustains 
it? Must it support the ideals of this society? Can it criticize such 
ideals? What are the limits of academic freedom? Such questions 
can be adequately answered only on the basis of a complete and 

WILD 37 

coherent social philosophy. There is no time for thorough treatment, 
but we may perhaps be able to make the realistic position intelli- 
gible in a brief sketch. 


This position is based upon the natural needs and tendencies of 
human nature as these may be determined by empirical investiga- 
tion. The general pattern of action which must be followed if 
realization is to be achieved is known in our tradition as the moral 
law or the law of nature. Men do not have to follow this law if 
they so wish. But then, as inescapable needs remain unrealized, they 
must suffer the natural sanctions of frustration, chaos, and misery. 

One of these basic needs is the need for social order. Human life 
cannot be lived without co-operation. This principle has sometimes 
been questioned. But very few now would question it. The evi- 
dence is too strong. Certain reasons are also evident. Like other 
social animals, men possess certain general tendencies of sex, love 
of progeny, and gregariousness which naturally bring them together. 
Some find this a sufficient explanation of the social life of man. 

Here, the realist cannot agree. Such an explanation may account 
for certain primitive forms of tribal organizaiton. It cannot account 
for those more advanced and complex organizations consisting of 
millions of persons in constant interaction and transition, who are, 
nevertheless, bound together in the unity of what we call a nation, 
a culture, or a civilization. What is the source of this mysterious 

Many thinkers, including the German idealists, Oswald Spengler, 
and others, have held that it is necessary to assume the existence 
of some group mind or substance living a life of its own apart from 
that of the component individuals. But there is no evidence which, 
when critically examined, will really support this view. All we ever 
observe are individuals acting and thinking in certain ways. Others, 
more numerous in our Anglo-Saxon tradition, have, therefore, re- 
jected this theory and have insisted that the group is nothing more 
than its individual members. Social instincts plus physical proximity 
are enough to explain the whole matter. Unfortunately, this is 
not enough. Men also possess antisocial and pugnacious tendencies 
which, unless they fall under sound direction, will bring disintegra- 


.tion. The hereditary equipment of man includes no factor sufficient 
to explain the persistent unity of a culture which enables millions 
of persons to act together in harmonious ways through extended 
intervals of time. 

Realistic thought rejects both these extreme views, the theory of 
the group soul and the theory of individualism. Its greatest repre- 
sentatives have developed and defended a third and very different 
position. They point to the intellectual operations of men which 
can grasp things as they really are and can formulate common pur- 
poses in universal terms which may then be communicated and 
shared in common. They observe that while men often do not do 
so, they nevertheless on occasion do act in accordance with rational 
purposes and sometimes develop the persistent attitudes and habits 
required for such co-operation. This shows that they are certainly 
capable of doing so. These thinkers have concluded, therefore, that 
human group life, like so much that is most distinctively human, is 
something not inherited but learned and preserved by education. 

A human society is not a single great soul or substance contain- 
ing many different parts like the cells of a giant organism. On the 
other hand, it is not merely a number of separate and autonomous 
individuals jumbled together within a single physical space. It is, 
rather, a number of separate and autonomous individuals sharing 
invisible common purposes and the active attitudes and habits re- 
quired to realize them in co-operation. The unity of the human 
group is to be found in its shared purposes and the view of the 
world which these presuppose. The very heart and core of a civi- 
lization is that communicable way of understanding things which 
determines its way of life. For want of a better term, we may 
call this guiding structure of ideas an ideology. The human com- 
munity when fully developed is not a substantial unity but, rather, 
a moral unity of purpose and endeavor. 19 

Why, then, has this not been more clearly recognized? The 
answer to this question is that it has been clearly recognized by 
realistic social philosophers since the time of Plato and Aristotle. It 
is now clearly recognized by the communists. In our own tradition 
it has been obscured by materialistic theories which deny the moving 

19. Cf. Wild, Introduction to Realistic Philosophy, op. cit., pp. 180-89, f r 
a more detailed account of this realistic theory. 

W I L D 39 

power of thought, and sometimes even its existence. Ideas are in- 
visible. They can neither be touched nor tasted nor measured 
through a microscope. 

Some thinkers object that this is an overly intellectualistic theory. 
Man, they point out, is a many-sided creature, intellect being only 
a small part of his nature. Most of his so-called purposes arise from 
nonrational sources. Some of them are wholly unconscious. The idea 
of rationalizing the whole of life, therefore, is a mere ivory-tower 
fantasy. In answer, it must be said that no claim has ever been made 
by a responsible, realistic thinker that reason exhausts the whole of 
human nature. Reason, indeed, is only a tiny part. Most of our in- 
herited tendencies are nonrational in character. But reason alone is 
capable of understanding them all and bringing them to ordered 
realization. Nor is this guiding power an illusion. Our inherited 
tendencies are very indeterminate and flexible. They are, therefore, 
open to further determination and direction. No claim is made that 
this has to be done, or even that it is usually done. Abundant facts 
show otherwise. The claim is, rather, that it is sometimes done pre- 
cisely in those fields where human action is most effective, that it 
can be done for the whole of life, and that this must be done if 
disaster is to be avoided. Are these claims then unreasonable? 


If inherited tendencies are not subject to direction, certain in- 
teresting conclusions follow. If voluntary co-operation is essential 
for human life and if learned purposes and attitudes are required 
for voluntary co-operation, then education is a basic need or right 
of man. Without it, human life cannot be lived. In our Anglo- 
Saxon tradition it has not yet been recognized as a human right 
but is still regarded as a privilege. In the recent United Nations 
Declaration it is clearly stated to be a universal human right, 
founded on human nature. It is not only advisable for a community 
but an essential duty to make sure that all children born within 
its boundaries are properly educated. From a realistic point of view 
this declaration is certainly correct. Without sound and compulsory 
education in the truth that has been discovered and without nurture 
in the moral practices founded on this knowledge, the human com- 

40 A R E A L I S T T C V I K W O F F D U C A T I O N 

munity must be punished by the natural sanctions of ignorance, 
fanaticism, and practical sterility. 

How does this need compare with other basic rights? First of 
all, what are these basic rights? Realistic thought has struggled 
with this question through the ages since the time of Plato's Re- 
public. 20 This has resulted in many statements, lists, and declara- 
tions, which it is interesting to compare. This tradition is still living 
and growing. No definitive statement has as yet been given. Much 
still remains to be learned about human nature. Perhaps the least 
inadequate list is that of the recent United Nations Declaration of 
Human Rights, which enumerates thirty basic rights and duties, 
readily divided into four major categories: 

First (a), there are the social values of peace, harmony, and 
orderly co-operation without which human life cannot be lived 
at all. These require that three subordinate sets of needs be satisfied. 
(b) There are the rights of subsistence, the need for food, clothing, 
shelter, medical care, etc., based on the physical aspect of human 
nature. Every individual has a body which requires intelligent care. 
Then (c), there are the permissive rights and liberties, based on the 
fact that each human individual is an animate body capable of self- 
motion and self-direction. Hence, he has a natural right to so direct 
himself, as long as he respects the rights of others, and to participate 
in the formulation of common policies and decisions. Hence the 
,light to be protected against violence, slavery, and arbitrary im- 
prisonment. Finally, (d) there are the intellectual rights, based on 
the fact that each individual has a mind, requiring adequate nurture 
and training before it can be properly exercised. These include the 
right to news and all available information, the right of assembly 
and free expression of opinion, and, most basic of all, the right to 

Each of these rights, of course, involves correlated duties. There 
may be other rights and duties besides these. But man by nature 
certainly possesses a body (fr), a soul that moves and animates the 
body (s), and mental faculties that apprehend reality (d). Hence 

20. For a discussion of Plato's theory of natural law, cf. John Wild, Plato's 
Modern Enemies and the Theory of Natural Law, chap. v. Chicago: Univer- 
sity of Chicago Press, 1953. 

WILD 41 

these rights must at least be realized to some degree if human life in 
society (a) is to be lived at all. 

Now all these needs are essential. All should be satisfied. But the 
realist believes that nature also indicates a certain causal order 
among them. Thus, it is clearly the soul which normally moves the 
body and the mind which directs the soul. The lower support the 
higher and can even exist alone. From this, many infer that the 
lower are more valuable. But this is a mistake. Without activation 
and guidance from the higher functions, the lower lose all their 
human value. The body itself requires physical food which can 
exist perfectly well by itself. But what good is it to fill a body with 
excellent food when it is sick unto death? In the same way, what 
good is it to possess bodily health when the soul that animates it is 
diseased and corrupt? Of what use is freedom of action to a man 
whose mind is so corrupt that he confuses good with evil and is, 
therefore, bound to misdirect himself? The value of the lower func- 
tions depends upon their proper guidance from above. In this way, 
the higher levels of the hierarchy are causally more important and 
higher in value. 

If this is true, it follows that of all the basic rights of man the 
right to education is the most precious and the most in need of ade- 
quate realization. On it will depend not only the attainment of its 
own peculiar values but that of all the rest as well. As his rational 
insight is to a wise man, so is a sound ideology sustained by effective 
education to a healthy society. As nothing worse can happen to a 
man than the corruption of his mind, so nothing more awful can 
happen to a community than the breakdown of its informal and 
formal education. This truth has long been recognized. Plato in his 
Republic tried to imagine what a community would be like where 
education was cultivated and respected as the guiding and, therefore, 
the most important social institution. 21 But this idea has never 
been put into practice and in modern times has been seriously neg- 
lected even theoretically. In our own country, for example, more 
money is spent every year on alcohol than on formal education. 

ii. For a discussion of Plato's views of education, cf. John Wild, Plato's 
Theory of Man, pp. 66-70, 174-205. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard Uni- 
versity Press, 1946. 



There are, of course, innumerable processes of informal com- 
munication and persuasion which constantly proceed outside the 
school through television, radio, books, newspapers, and every 
form of social intercourse. In all these myriad ways, ideas and 
attitudes are passed on and transformed. In the school an attempt 
is made to organize this process and to carry it on in a critical 
and disciplined way. Under ideal conditions this should clarify the 
common ideology, strengthen its appeal, and exert a stabilizing and 
cohesive effect upon the community as a whole. In fact, as we 
have seen, no community can be maintained in a sound condition 
without the adequate performance of this essential function. The 
disintegration of many civilizations can be traced to ideological 
breakdown and confusion. 

It is in this context that the complex question of the school's 
obligation to its supporting society should be discussed. Surely it 
is under obligation to contribute to the welfare of this society and 
to defend its ideology against opposed points of view. In terms of 
our own situation, is it the duty of our schools to teach democracy? 
Should teachers at the higher levels be allowed to defend subversive 
doctrines? Are there limits to academic freedom? Should the ethos 
of internationalism be allowed to penetrate our schools? It is one 
thing to give a ready answer to these controversial questions, based 
merely on some national tradition or temperamental preference. It 
is something very different to work out an answer grounded on the 
nature of man and the necessary structure of human society. Let 
us now try to indicate the way in which realistic thought attempts 
to give such a grounded answer. 

The modern democratic ideal is very rich. Many diverse streams of 
thought have contributed to it. 22 One of these is modern skepticism 
with its distrust of arbitrary fiat and the idea of checks and balances 
to prevent tyrannical rule. This is an important negative aspect of 
the idea. But there are other positive aspects which are equally 
important. The realist believes that the instrumentalist conception 
of democracy as a completely fluid process guided by no fixed 
principles is internally incoherent, incapable of resisting mass 

22. Cf. Wild, Plato's Modern Enemies and the Theory of Natural Law, 
op. cit., pp. 43-48, for an analysis of this conception. 

WILD 43 

tyranny, and incompatible with the best interpretations of democra- 
cy which have been historically developed in our tradition. 

We are told that a "problematic situation" is the occasion for 
inquiry. 28 In trying to solve the "problem," we are to follow a 
process of experimentation that will indicate which way seems best. 
This way is then to be temporarily followed in all fields until 
further experimentation reveals what seems to work better. But 
how are we to distinguish between what is really problematic and 
what is only apparently so? How are we to judge the results of 
experimentation with no stable standards to guide us? In social and 
moral matters, how are we to distinguish between what really works 
and what is merely pleasing to large numbers of people? 

Unless this distinction can be coherently and persistently made, 
we are on the road to mass tyranny which, as we ourselves have 
witnessed, is the most dreadful form yet known. Without an over- 
arching pattern with sufficiently wide and intensive appeal to guide 
them into orderly modes of expression, the piecemeal pursuit of 
random interests will j-csultjn chaos. But men cannot exist together 
in chaos. Hence, this must lead to the intervention of arbitrary de- 
cree. When reason and voluntary effort no longer offer guidance, 
reliance must be placed on force, and civilization decays. 24 No pure- 
ly negative and skeptical conceptions have ever been able to stir 
great multitudes of men to the concerted social effort which is 

As a matter of fact, the great ideal of democracy, as it has been 
handed down to us, still embodies other positive ingredients. The 
most important of these is the conception of natural law, implying 
natural rights and duties, ultimately derived from realistic thought. 
Our protection of minority rights and our concern for public edu- 
cation have come from this source. The realist believes that no in- 
terpretation of the democratic ideal is adequate which omits this 
vital element. By democracy we should, therefore, mean a communi- 
ty organized on the basis of the law of nature, in which the natural 
rights of every individual are respected without regard for sex, or 
race, or creed, and in which, under the guidance of rational knowl- 

23. The Philosophy of John Dewey, op. cit., pp. 559-60. 

24. Cf. Plato, Republic, Bk. VIII. 

44 A R E A L 1 S I' I C V I K \V O F K 1> U C A T 1 O N 

edge, all natural duties required for the realization of these needs 
are adequately performed. 

This ideal is in agreement with science and the best philosophy 
of the West. It is firmly grounded in our own tradition. Hence, the 
realist believes that this ideal, together with its realistic, rationalistic 
presuppositions, should be adequately taught and defended in our 
schools. At the lower levels, it should be presented with as much 
persuasive power as possible; at the higher levels, critically and 
with more consideration of alternative views. 


It is at these higher levels of university and graduate school that 
the question of academic freedom becomes acute. In the high school, 
and even more in the elementary school, this freedom must take a 
subordinate place. Of course, no teacher should be expected to com- 
municate to others what he himself really believes to be false. But 
those with militant convictions opposed to the commonly accepted 
principles of knowledge and to our basic way of life should not 
take over the task of elementary education. At this level, transmis- 
sion is more important than criticism and discovery. The student is 
as yet in no position to examine and to weigh opposed masses of 
intricate evidence. He can neither understand the ultimate reasons 
for which he is being taught nor participate as yet in creative re- 
search. The teacherjs jm_ insj^uctgr .rather than a guide. His duty 
is to convey as rationally and as persuasively as possible a knowl- 
edge of the necessary tools of learning and an outline of the truths 
and probable truths which are already accepted as a result of the 
use of these tools. If he cannot do this honestly, he should turn to 
higher levels where there is more place for criticism and originality, 
or if he does not care to gamble on the truth of his unusual beliefs, 
he should embrace another occupation. 

But at the higher levels the situation is quite different. Here, the 
task of teaching merges with that of discovery. It is the duty 
of the teacher not only to transmit what is already known but to 
examine and test new theories and criticisms. The student is pre- 
sumably now able to judge for himself and to participate more ac- 
tively in the whole enterprise. The aim of this enterprise is to find 
and to maintain the truth. The soundness of the educational system at 

WILD 45 

all levels and the welfare of the whole community will ultimately 
depend on realizing this fundamental aim. Truth results from the 
determination of the human mind by the evidence and the evidence 
alone, apart from all external bias and pressure. Hence, a necessary 
condition for the discovery of truth is the freedom to take any 
position whatsoever to which an adequately trained mind is led 
by an examination of the evidence. 

Freedom, of course, can exist without any truth emerging from 
the process of inquiry, which then is frustrated and futile. Freedom 
is not a sufficient condition, but it is a necessary condition for the 
conclusive testing and final discovery of truth. It is as simple as 
thisno freedom, no truth! 

As knowledge advances, certain points of view and certain doc- 
trines will be definitely disproved, and any attempt to revive them 
in the same context will be ruled out as incompetent. But this 
ruling on professional competence should be made by experts with- 
in the field itself, not by the interference of alien intruders. Any 
such intervention from the outside, even with respect to what are 
considered to be minor details, will compromise the whole aca- 
demic system, for all its parts are interdependent and related. Truth 
cannot be decreed by arbitrary fiat but only by disciplined study 
of the evidence. An institution which^cannot follow, the argument 
wherever it may lead has ceased to be a university. It has_becorne 
a propaganda bureau, and justifiable suspicion will be cast on all 
it teaches. 

But what if vital mistakes are made that call for correction? Such 
mistakes are constantly being made. They will be corrected, if at 
all, by the results of free research and untrammeled criticism. From 
what other source can genuine correction come? 

What if certain doctrines which are against the best interests of 
the whole community are defended? But what are the best in- 
terests of the community? What need ranks higher than the need 
for the truth as it really is? If a community no longer recognizes 
the guiding authority of such truth, it should abolish its educational 
system and return at once to primitive tribalism. As a matter of fact, 
such a community is already headed in this direction. 

But what if an attack is made at the philosophical level on the 
power of reason itself and on its guiding authority? Such objections 


are taken most seriously by those like the positivists who disbelieve 
in philosophic evidence and who hold that ultimate decisions must 
be made on the basis of sheer caprice. 

The realist cannot take such a position seriously. First of all, it 
is inconsistent, for if it defends itself by debate and argument it 
must give reasons and thus take reason seriously. Secondly, it mis- 
reads the evidence. Its reasons are unfounded. A careful examination 
will show that, of all the natural powers of man, none is more sweep- 
ing, more exact, and therefore better fitted to guide human action 
than reason working together with sense. Hence, even such views, if 
they are competently defended by competent minds, must be given 
a hearing in the free forum of academic debate. They, too, can be 
refuted by a patient examination of the evidence and by disciplined 
argument. Such argument, in fact, is the only way to test our founda- 
tions and to become sure of them. If they cannot stand such a search- 
ing test, then our edifice is built on sand. If no firm foundations can 
be found anywhere, then knowledge is a delusion, and education 
a sham. The hope for a rationally ordered community must be 

Those who still cherish this hope are under a profound and bind- 
ing obligation to defend academic freedom at the higher levels 
with the last ounce of their energy. Any attack upon it jeopar- 
dizes the whole teaching enterprise and the welfare of the com- 
munity. It is a critical step toward the rule of force and tyranny. 

But we may still be asked to examine the disruptive effects of 
doctrines subversive to the existing social order. These doctrines 
may upset man's peace of mind. They may lead to rebellion and 
strife within the community. They interfere with communal order 
and peace. What dangers, it may be asked, are greater than these? 
There are greater dangers those that arise from the inexorable sanc- 
tions imposed by the laws of human nature and the real world in 
which men live. 25 These laws work implacably in complete in- 
dependence of the feelings and fantasies, or even the peace, of any 
particular group. If education is neglected and corrupted, the whole 

25. For examples of these poenae naturales, as they were later called, cf. 
Plato, Republic, Bk. DC, pp. 51 7 A ff., 5776, and 5880 ff. For an illuminating 
commentary, cf. G. P. Maguire, Plato's Theory of Natural Law, p. 178. Yale 
Classical Studies, No. X. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 

WILD 47 

community will suffer the inevitable sanctions of mass ignorance, 
bias, and final tyranny. This is far more fearful than the temporary 
loss of complacency or harmony. 

At the present time, we are facing a natural sanction of this sort 
in the field of international relations. Unless children all over the 
world are taught broader perspectives than those of their own 
particular nation-state, unless they are taught something of the 
needs of man, the history of mankind, and the urgent requirements 
of the world community, we are confronted with the dreadful 
sanction of war with weapons of unparalleled destructiveness. This 
sanction is also worse than the loss of intellectual or even of physical 
peace in a given community, for the whole world is involved. The 
realist is, therefore, convinced that all teachers at all levels at the 
present time are under a stringent obligation to broaden their per- 
spectives beyond nationalistic limits. This applies especially to 
teachers of history, the humanities, social science, ethics, and social 
philosophy. But since the last two topics touch upon all fields, this 
applies in some degree to all teachers. Unless our students can soon 
learn something about becoming citizens of the world, they may not 
be citizens at all. 

The School and the Individual 

As the realist sees it, the same natural standards which apply to 
society also apply to the individual. 


According to realistic philosophy, there is no natural opposition 
between the common good of the whole society and the good of 
the individual. When there is antagonism between the two, this is 
a sign of corruption. Either the social order has become deformed 
and needs correction or the educational process has failed to explain 
this order and has allowed the individual to misunderstand his 
natural end. The common good, so far as it is accurately conceived 
and adequately pursued by co-operative action, is not something 
which excludes the welfare of the individual. It includes this welfare 
as one of its parts. The aim of the individual is to realize his 
capacities, to live a complete and unhampered human life. He can- 


not do this without the support of co-operative action, ordered in 
accordance with natural law. 

During his whole life, and especially during infancy, his material 
needs (b) must be supplied with the help of others (see p. 40). As 
soon as he is able to move his body, he will wish to engage in 
activities which interest him (c). This also requires the aid and 
protection of those around him. If he is to satisfy his curiosity and 
learn how to direct himself wisely, he must receive an education 
(d). Without social peace and harmony (a), none of these rights can 
be realized. This natural order is not opposed to freedom, as Hobbes 
and Locke maintained. It is rather a necessary condition for indi- 
vidual spontaneity and freedom of choice. Unless it is approximated 
to some degree, human life itself becomes impossible. 

Every individual is born into a community already organized in 
some such way with specific, positive laws and customs which have 
grown out of its own peculiar history and circumstances. He is 
born with the faculties of insight and free self-direction which 
distinguish him from all other animal progeny and entitle him 
to that respect which has been accorded him, in spite of his physical 
weakness, by the best traditions of the West. These faculties are 
the active sources of truth, freedom, and of all that is most specifical- 
ly human in the world. 

But at the beginning they are pure capacities devoid of actual con- 
tent. The mind of the individual is a blank tablet, as yet uninscribed. 
His active tendencies are determined by nature but are so flexible 
and indeterminate that they may be specified in an indefinite num- 
ber of ways. 

Here we must also remember that each child is an individual with 
his own body and his own peculiar traits, occupying a unique 
division of space and time, and subject to divergent influences from 
surrounding sources. It is inevitable that he will develop ideas of his 
own, both true and false, and specific tendencies of his own, both 
sound and unsound, due to differences in hereditary endowment 
and environmental influence. This sets the problem of authority 
for all educational procedure. It has often been met in human history 
by one or the other of two opposite modes of procedure. 

WILD 49 


On the one hand, there is the harsh and authoritarian way of 
meeting this challenge. It takes advantage of the physical weakness 
and mental confusion of youth to impose its own patterns by fear 
and by force. At the lower levels, it crushes disagreement by the 
threat of punishment. This is a source of weakness and rebellion. 
But at the higher levels it is even weaker. Here, it encourages imita- 
tion and discourages questions and discussion. It calls for humility 
on the part of the student but thinks of the teacher as a feudal lord, 
often confusing him with the truth he is supposed to teach, the 
only ground of legitimate authority. 

This authoritarian method is often successful in transmitting 
intact to oncoming generations a rigid social order its faults to- 
gether with its virtues. But it does this only at the cost of wiping 
out spontaneity and originality. There is little chance of correcting 
ancient mistakes and enormities. The products of such a system may 
be able to act well as long as conditions remain the same. But when 
new challenges are confronted, they fail for want of originality. 
They have learned many useful habits, but not those of self-direc- 
tion. They never outgrow their early masters and need a leader 
to take the place of those masters. They can perform virtuous 
acts, but not in a virtuous way, that is, spontaneously and alone. 

They admire virtue, but, since they have mastered it only par- 
tially, they think of it in the Kantian manner as something harsh, 
unpleasant, and externally imposed. Such people and the education 
that has helped to produce them are characteristic of civilizations 
after they have passed their fruitful periods and are hardening into 
decadent rigidity. Such systems are apt to be rife with secret 
skepticism on the part of the teachers and rebellion on the part of 
the students. Hence, they easily pass into the opposite mode of 


This is the chaotic and child-centered method, which prides itself 
on being nonauthoritarian. It confuses any claim to truth with dog- 
matism and distrusts the very word truth. It fears to exert any 
pressure on the child and views punishment as arbitrary repression. 


Grounded authority is undermined, so children tend to take authori- 
ty into their own hands. This is even held to be democratic. What- 
ever the child is interested in thereby becomes a value worthy of 
being pursued, so far as it does not conflict with other interests of 
other children. Since even the childish mind can see the need of 
physical artifacts as a necessary condition for satisfying random 
interests, the scientific disciplines are maintained. In this area, reason 
should be a guide. But elsewhere, it is thought to be a mere in- 
strument for the satisfaction of sporadic desires. 

The humanistic disciplines are neglected or reduced to servile 
imitations of scientific method. One is skeptical of everything but 
the quantitative facts revealed by scientific measurement. An at- 
mosphere of cynical materialism is spread throughout the whole 
community. Moral attitudes may be sustained by the processes of 
informal education which lag behind. But in the end, they too will 
be broken down if the disintegrative process is not arrested. 

This nonauthoritarian procedure is really the breakdown of 
authority. It calls for humility on the part of the teacher but idolizes 
the student. It transmits very little except the disciplines of science, 
a vast respect for technology, and a general reductive materialism. 
The rest of life dissolves into a chaos of opposing groups and atti- 
tudes, more and more of which become engulfed in the rising tide 
of mass materialism, supported by the prestige of physical science 
and the massive artifacts of its technology. A premium is placed on 
individual initiative and originality, but great individual artists, states- 
men, and philosophers seldom appear, for this requires humanistic 
discipline and the appeal of an overarching ideology. 

The individual, lacking such schooling and bewildered by the 
conflict of opposing "spiritual" authorities, may pay lip service to 
that one which most impresses him by its exaggerated claims. But, in 
living his life from day to day, he will increasingly allow himself to 
be dominated by physical need and the physicalist ideas by which 
this attitude seems to be justified. Genuine originality is discouraged, 
and mass uniformity comes to dominate the scene. 

Such a system transmits effectively only the rudimentary, physical 
aspects of a culture. The people it produces are helpless in meeting 
the ideological and political challenges that confront any advanced 
civilization. They think that all problems may be solved by scientific 

WILD 51 

method and technology. On the whole, they are careless about ideas 
and formal education and believe that they may be adequately de- 
fended by physical weapons alone. They hold such virtues as they 
possess from a cultural lag, without the support of rational criticism. 
These surviving virtues are apt to be mixed with irrelevant detail 
and outworn attitudes no longer adjusted to prevailing conditions. 
Hence, these people also regard virtue as something hard and anti- 
quated and opposed to vital interest. The more intelligent smile at 
the whole idea and connect it with bygone aristocracy. 

Such people, and the education that has helped to produce them, 
are characteristic of disintegrating civilizations. Their authorities 
and schools have broken down. They are ripe for tyranny and self- 


The realist believes that an answer to the critical problem of in- 
dividual variation and egoism is to be found only in a clear under- 
standing and proper exercise of genuine authority. The extreme 
methods we have just described are both perversions. The concept 
of authority is now widely neglected and misunderstood. For us, 
it has come to have evil connotations and is rarely used in a good 
sense. This is because we think of knowledge subjectively, as some- 
thing wholly contained within the mind of the knower and as part 
of his personal being. We then conceive of authority in simple, 
binary terms, as somebody lording it over others and imposing his 
attitudes upon them by force and guile. This is the authoritarianism 
we have just described, which inevitably and rightly calls forth 
rebellion and chaos. It is not authority at all but its first insidious 

Error is the creation of the erring subject. But knowledge does 
not belong in this way to the knowing agent. It is relational in 
structure and is grounded on the independent being of objects it has 
not constructed. Genuine authority, therefore, when it is properly 
exercised, has a trinary not a binary structure. First, it must be 
grounded on independent being which is known as it really is. This 
is the basis of all authority. Then, there are the free minds of those 
who are ignorant but prepared to receive it. The authority exercises 
a mediating function between the two, transmitting the truth to 
these minds without jeopardizing their freedom. 


Subrational animals have to be controlled, so far as they are con- 
trolled at all, by force and guile. This method cannot be used on 
human agents without destroying their freedom. The trained mind 
with access to the evidence can find out for itself, given time and 
discipline. But time is short and discipline is arduous. Is there any 
way by which the process can be speeded up so that the vast ranges 
of knowledge that need to be preserved can be conveyed without 
the loss of freedom? There is such a way, the way of authority, 
which lies at the heart of all human education. 

The process must begin with respect for the teacher. Without 
this, no one can learn from another. It must be elicited by external 
pressure and suggestion. But once initiated, the process advances 
without the use of force by persuasion and argument. At the lower 
levels mild rewards and punishments may be used effectively, but 
only with an eye on the future, to encourage the development of 
self-directive habits which will eventually act spontaneously. The 
real teacher is exercising a self-superseding function, guiding others 
to an independent reality, which they must grasp by themselves. 
Hence, he never confuses this ground with his own opinions. At the 
higher levels, his aim is to make himself vanish, so far as possible, 
that the truth may be revealed. This method calls for humility from 
both parties. Above them stands the truth. 

The student is confronted with a range of existence for which he 
is in no sense responsible. His duty is to learn those arduous opera- 
tions by which here and there it may be revealed to him as it really 
is. One tiny grain of truth is worth more than volumes of opinion. 
He has not learned how to think and to act in a disciplined way 
until he can do so spontaneously and with real pleasure. He will 
never think of virtue as arbitrary and alien, but rather as something 
very natural and human. With his eye fixed on stable, universal 
principles, both his thought and his conduct will manifest that 
creative flexibility in detail which always goes with understanding. 

In this way, by the proper exercise of authority, the sound struc- 
ture of a whole culture, including its scientific aspects, may be 
maintained without the loss of individual spontaneity and freedom. 
The greatest weaknesses of materialism lie in its incapacity to offer 
coherent explanations of cognitive apprehension, communication, 
and choice. It is a sign of the failure of intellect and will. Hence, the 

WILD 53 

best and only effective answer is to operate these faculties every- 
where. Where great numbers of individuals are thinking for them- 
selves, discussing their problems with the aid of a sensitive press and 
literature, and choosing their own way in the light of coherent prin- 
ciples, there is little danger of domination by oversimplified, reduc- 
tive views. 

The necessary condition for this is the existence of an overarching 
ideology, sound enough to account for the most evident facts of 
experience and appealing enough to call forth interest and devotion. 

The School and Religion 

History shows that, in the past, this sound and appealing ideology 
has constantly been maintained in different cultures by a religious 
synthesis. This is certainly true of our own civilization which was 
established on the basis of a Christian view of the world. Many ideas 
and attitudes derived from this source are, of course, still active. 
But the weakening of Christianity in modern times and its division 
into a multitude of conflicting sects has placed formidable obstacles 
in the path of any attempt to revive it educationally. 


Many of these sects have maintained their own traditions in such a 
rigid and authoritarian manner that they now include antiquarian 
ideas and attitudes which are wholly out of touch with modern life 
and knowledge. Any attempt to introduce them into the school sys- 
tem by an appeal that is wholly emotional and irrational will conflict 
with the rational, critical spirit of this institution and will probably 
fail. At the other extreme, an effort to deal with this topic in a wholly 
detached and objective way is apt to kill all real interest and to end 
in cynical indifference. Even to teach it in a university as one special 
topic among many others will involve a neglect of its synthetic 
functions. Religion is either something basic and overarching or 
nothing but words and meaningless acts. 

But to turn over the public schools and even important private 
institutions to a single sect would cause justifiable resentment and 
open conflict. This is also impossible. 



Realistic philosophy is not committed to the point of view of any 
particular religious group. It has been cultivated in China, India, and 
the Middle East. It became established in the West through the in- 
fluential writings of Plato and Aristotle long before the advent of 
Christianity. In spite of the accidents of history, which have some- 
times associated it with certain religious organizations, it is not the 
property of any single sect. 

At the present time, realistic thinkers are generally sympathetic 
to religion. There are two basic reasons for this. First, there is the 
evidence which seems to indicate that the world is not necessarily 
existent, but dependent and contingent; and the different types of 
causal argument based on this evidence have convinced many 
thinkers of the existence of a self-sustaining cause. Secondly, there 
are the historical facts which seem to show that the most sacrificial 
generosity, the deepest humility, the most intense aspiration, and, 
in short, the highest quality of human life has been elicited by re- 
ligious faith. This seems true the world over. The maintenance of 
human culture requires the commitment of millions of individuals 
to common purposes which elicit real devotion. Many experienced 
observers with some knowledge of human history doubt if anything 
short of religious faith is capable of exerting such a widespread and 
intensive appeal to the minds and hearts of men. Many types of moral 
argument have been based on this evidence. Can it be that the most 
authentic human life and the soundest culture are dependent on sheer 
delusions with no basis in fact? 

Such lines of argument have been most convincingly developed 
by Western thinkers. Hence, very few realistic philosophers are now 
antireligious. Most of them would favor an attempt to revive and 
to strengthen our religious roots. But there is no agreement con- 
cerning the way in which those serious obstacles we have considered 
may best be met. Many divergent approaches need to be made. We 
shall conclude with a few comments on experiments that are already 
under way. 


It seems absurd that religious instruction should be altogether ex- 
cluded from our public schools and colleges, so that the ordinary 

WILD 55 

student will continue to emerge with almost no disciplined informa- 
tion concerning the basic ideas and attitudes on which his own cul- 
ture is founded. Some effort, at least, should be made to provide 
reliable information about religion. Perhaps this can best be done 
at the elementary levels in history courses and in the reading of 
literature. It is important that exclusive reliance should not be placed 
on secondary sources and that the student be brought into vital 
contact with the original classics of the great world religions. Such 
a procedure should also be followed at the higher levels with more 
concentration and discipline. 

This is only a first step, of course, in attempting to correct that 
profound religious ignorance which is such a depressing feature of 
current education. 

In institutions that are properly prepared, further steps might be 
taken to give the student a chance to understand religion more sys- 
tematically from within. This could be done by allowing the rep- 
resentatives of different religious traditions to present their divergent 
points of view in voluntary courses which is already being at- 
tempted at the university level. I see no reason why such procedures 
should not also be tried out in the high school when the time is ripe. 

The less rational modes of religious thought will, of course, be at 
a disadvantage. Any appeal which is based exclusively on traditional 
forms of emotion, and which ignores rational and scientific evidence, 
will at once have the life-giving ethos of sound institutional teachings 
pitted against it. This may at first cause further prejudice. But there 
are, fortunately, several living types of religion which do not dis- 
count human reason. In the long run, the skeptical, critical ethos 
of formal education will be a valuable check on extravagance, big- 
otry, and superstition which are ever-present dangers, though not 
perhaps as insidious as those of cynicism and indifference. 

In all fields, an effort should be made to call the student's atten- 
tion to foundational problems and issues and to encourage him to 
work out hypothetical syntheses of his own in a disciplined and re- 
sponsible way. In all fields, at every level in every way, an attack 
should be made on the prevalent idea that education is the same as 
negation and that the more intelligent a person is, the less he be- 
lieves. This is radically false. 

Personal life is impossible without guiding convictions; and the 


greater the mind of the person, the broader, richer, and more co- 
herent are his beliefs. The disintegrated mind is never really educated. 
It may be brilliant in a narrow field; but, deprived of order and 
coherence, it sheds no light and offers no stable guidance in the 
ocean of existence. Leaving its bearer to be blown about by random 
winds and currents, it is a major threat to personal life and a menace 
to civilization. Formal education is an organized attempt to meet 
this desperate natural need. The realist believes that the renewed 
cultivation of philosophy in a careful manner as a responsible dis- 
cipline with data, problems, and verifiable conclusions of its own 
may now contribute once again to the meeting of this need. 

He also hopes that if such steps are taken, new bridges may begin 
to be built across the dreadful chasm that now so tragically separates 
much of formal education from the extracurricular life of the com- 
munity. Realistic philosophy has always kept in close touch with 
the sound common sense of mankind which is radically realistic, so 
long as it is not confused by mistakes and sophistries. This philosophy 
has conceived of its task, not as that of negating this native insight 
of mankind which precedes all organized reflection, nor of startling 
it with novel hypotheses which contradict its normal apprehensions. 
It has thought of itself, rather, as exercising a therapeutic function, 
first accepting this native faculty together with its normal insights, 
and then expanding, purifying, and refining them to meet the in- 
tellectual needs of life. Is this not also true of formal education? 20 

This civilizing institution presupposes a vast number of informal 
learning processes which go on anyway. Its task is not to negate these 
natural procedures or to replace them by something artificial, but, 
rather, to care for them-purifying, extending, and ordering them 
so that they may achieve more adequate fulfilment. If this were more 
widely recognized, both inside and outside the profession, education 
might once more elicit that profound respect which it truly deserves 
as the guardian of rational light and the guiding beacon of our 

26. Cf. Plato, Sophist, pp. 226-300. 


Thomist Views an Education* 


Basic Orientation 

It is advisable, I think, to draw a clear distinction between the 
basic philosophical issues on which theories of education depend and 
the questions of a more practical nature which bear on concrete ap- 
plication and the technique of education. So I shall, as a rule, divide 
into two parts the considerations that I should like to submit, one 
dealing with philosophical principles, the other with practical 

In a general way, I would say that the Thomist outlook is in op- 
position to the philosophical systems (notably pragmatism) to which 
progressive education most often appeals for support, but agrees 
in many respects with the practical ways and methods of progressive 
education when they are not led astray by prejudice or ideological 
intemperance, and decidedly favors their concern with the inner re- 
sources and vital spontaneity of the pupil. In many cases, and from a 
practical point of view, the conflicts of schools indicated in chapter i 
seem to me to relate less to absolutely incompatible views than to 
the relative emphasis which is to be put on various complementary 
aspects. In educational matters, as in all matters dealing with man's 
life, what is of chief importance is the direction of the process, and 
the implied hierarchy of values. 


Underlying all questions concerning the basic orientation of ed- 
ucation, there is the philosophy of knowledge to which the educator 
consciously or unconsciously subscribes. It is regrettable that more 

* Educational Consultant: Professor William F. Cunningham, Notre Dame 



often than not this philosophy of knowledge, in our current practice, 
is accepted ready-made rather than critically examined. 

Thomist philosophy maintains that there is a difference in nature 
between the senses (where knowledge depends on material action 
exercised upon bodily organs, and which attain things in their actual 
and singular existence but only as enigmatically manifested by the 
diversified physical energies they display) and the intellect (which 
is spiritual in essence and attains, through the universal concepts it 
brings out from sense experience, the constitutive features of what 
things are). 

This basic point is denied by empiricism. According to empiricist 
philosophy there is no distinction of nature, but only of degree, be- 
tween the senses and the intellect. As a result, human knowledge 
is simply sense-knowledge (that is, animal knowledge) more evolved 
and elaborated than in other mammals. And not only is human 
knowledge entirely encompassed in, and limited to, sense-experience 
(a point which Kant, while reacting against Hume, admitted like 
Hume) but, to produce its achievements in the sphere of sense-ex- 
perience, human knowledge uses no other specific forces and means 
than the forces and means that are at play in sense-knowledge. 

Thus, from the Thomist point of view, the empiricist theory of 
knowledge is of a nature inevitably to warp, in the long run, the 
educational endeavor. And this happens in a rather insidious way: 
For if it is true, in actual fact, that reason differs specifically from 
the senses, then the paradox with which we are confronted is that 
empiricism, in actual fact, uses reason while denying the specific 
power of reason, on the basis of a theory which reduces reason's 
knowledge and life, which are characteristic of man, to sense-knowl- 
edge and life, which are characteristic of animals. Hence, there are 
confusions and inconsistencies which will inevitably reflect on the 
educational work. Not only does the empiricist think as a man and 
use reason, a power superior in nature to the senses, while at the 
same time he is denying this very specificity of reason, but what he 
speaks of and describes as sense-knowledge is not exactly sense- 
knowledge, but sense-knowledge plus unconsciously introduced in- 
tellective ingredients; that is, the empiricist discusses sense-knowledge 
in which he has made room for reason without recognizing it. This 
confusion comes about all the more easily as, on the one hand, the 

M A R I T A I N 59 

senses are, in actual existence, more or less permeated with reason in 
man, and, on the other, the merely sensory psychology of animals, 
especially of the higher vertebrates, goes very far in its own realm 
and imitates intellectual knowledge to a considerable extent. It is 
thus possible to go a long way in educating a child of man as if he 
were a child of some simian particularly evolved and supposedly 
civilized. An educational theory based on empiricism will cover the 
whole development of the youth and be interested in the cultivation 
of the rational and spiritual powers of his mind, but in doing so it 
will be ignorant of the very nature of these powers, disregard their 
proper needs and aspirations, and bring everything back to the 
ambiguous level of the development of a child of man in terms of 
simple animal life and development. 

Let us go a step further. In the eyes of Thomist philosophy any 
merely instrumentalist theory of knowledge is open to similar ob- 
jections: by reason of the empiricist presuppositions on which any 
merely instrumentalist philosophy of knowledge rests. It is an un- 
fortunate mistake to define human thought as an organ of response 
to the stimuli and situations of the environment, that is to say, to 
define it in terms of animal knowledge and reaction, for such a def- 
inition exactly corresponds to the way of "thinking" peculiar to 
animals without reason. The truth of the matter is just the opposite. 
It is because human ideas attain being, or what things are (even if 
they do so in the most indirect manner, and in the symbols of 
physicomathematical science); it is because human thought is a vital 
energy of spiritual intuition grasping things in their intelligible con- 
sistency and universal values; it is because thinking begins, not with 
difficulties, but with insights and ends in insights whose truth is 
established by rational demonstration or experimental verification, 
not by pragmatic sanction that human thought is able to illumine 
experience and to dominate, control, and refashion the world. At 
the beginning of human action, in so far as it is human, there is truth, 
grasped or believed to be grasped, for the sake of truth. Without 
trust in truth, there is no human effectiveness. 

Thus, for Thomist philosophy, knowledge is a value in itself and 
an end in itself; and truth consists in the conformity of the mind 
with reality with what is or exists independently of the mind. The 
intellect tends to grasp and conquer being. Its aim and its joy are 


essentially disinterested. And "perfect" or "grown-up" knowledge 
("science" in the broad Aristotelian sense) reaches certainties which 
are valid in their pure objectivity whatever the bents and interests 
of the individual or collective man may beand are unshakably 
established through the intuition of first principles and the logical 
necessity of the deductive or inductive process. Thus, that superior 
kind of knowledge which is wisdom, because it deals not only with 
mastering natural phenomena but with penetrating the primary and 
most universal raisons cfStre and with enjoying, as a final fruition, 
the spiritual delight of truth and the sapidity of being, fulfils the 
supreme aspiration of the intellectual nature and its thirst for 

There is no other foundation for the educational task than the 
eternal saying: It is truth which sets man free. It appears, by the 
same token, that education is fully human education only when it 
is liberal education, preparing the youth to exercise his power to 
think in a genuinely free and liberating manner that is to say when 
it equips him for truth and makes him capable of judging according 
to the worth of evidence, of enjoying truth and beauty for their own 
sake, and of advancing, when he has become a man, toward wisdom 
and some understanding of those things which bring to him intima- 
tions of immortality. 


I just spoke of the stage where intellectual virtues have come to 
completion and spoke of knowledge as science. This led us far 
beyond the scope of school and college education. It must be pointed 
out, in particular, that, precisely because scientific knowledge is 
perfect or "grown-up" knowledge, it is fitted to adults, not to chil- 
drento those who know, not to those who are in the process of 
acquiring knowledge. As to the techniques of education, Thomist 
philosophy, which insists that man is body as well as spirit and that 
nothing comes into the intellect if not through the senses, heartily 
approves of the general emphasis put by progressive education on 
the essential part to be played in the process by the senses and the 
hands and by the natural interests of the child. It also emphasizes 
sense-training (both as to perception and memory) and the direct 
experiential approach but on the condition that all this should be 


directed toward the awakening of the intellectual powers and the 
development of the sense of truth. 

A crucial point should be emphasized in this connection. 1 We have 
to understand the far-reaching significance and the practical import 
of the distinction between natural intelligence and those "habitus" or 
c'&ij which Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas called intellectual vir- 
tues. Art (each of the specifically distinct arts), science (each of the 
specifically distinct sciences), and wisdom, are intellectual virtues. 
Really to know a science is to possess the intellectual virtue which 
constitutes this science in the soul. And the intellectual virtues are 
special energies which grow in intelligence through exercise in a 
given object, as superadded perfections, superior in quality to the 
capacity of what I call natural intelligence, that is to say, of in- 
telligence considered in its bare nature. Thus we have two quite 
different states for intelligence: natural intelligence and intelligence 
as scientifically formed and equipped, or, in Thomist language, in- 
telligence perfected by the intellectual virtues. 

My contention is that education, especially liberal education, has 
essentially to cultivate and liberate, form and equip intelligence, and 
to prepare for the development of the intellectual virtues, but that 
this development itself, once the threshold of virtue has been crossed, 
is necessarily particularized to a given branch of knowledge. So no 
universal knowledge is possible at the level of intellectual virtues or 
at the level of science (except that kind of universal knowledge 
which knows things only in their fundamentals and which is proper 
to wisdom, the supreme intellectual virtue). But a kind of universal 
knowledge is possible at the level of natural intelligence or at a level 
which is neither scientific nor philosophical. At this level of natural 
intelligence, the youth can be offered, not scientific knowledge sup- 
posedly reduced and concentrated, but some real, integrated, and 
articulate, though imperfect, understanding what Plato would have 
called "right opinion" about the nature and meaning of that knowl- 
edge which is proper to men in possession of the intellectual virtues. 
Moreover, at the same time, the youth can get a few basic insights 
into the main acquisitions with which this knowledge has provided 

i. Another point would deal with the typical "worlds of knowledge" which 
are peculiar to the main stages of the educational process. Cf. my book Edu- 
cation at the Crossroads, pp. 60-62. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University 
Press, 1943. 


the human mind. Education must never give up the idea of universal 
knowledge, but it must realize all the practical implications of this 
principle that universal knowledge is possible only at a nonscientific 
level, at the level of natural intelligence, not at the level of science 
and the intellectual virtues. Universal knowledge to be acquired by 
the youth at the level of natural intelligence is precisely the job of 
that which I consider essential for high-school and college years, 
namely, basic liberal education. 2 

Basic liberal education is liberal education directed to the natural 
intelligence of youth, with thorough respect for this intelligence, 
for its peculiar behavior still steeped in imagination as well as for 
its need for unity, but with no pretension to go beyond it and enter 
the sphere proper to the intellectual virtues. The genuine task is nei- 
ther encyclopedic inculcation nor what I should like to call nursery 
accommodation: it is basic liberal education, dealing with universal 
knowledge at the level of natural intelligence and using natural in- 
telligence's own approach. 

Educational Aims and Values 


Concerning Philosophical Principles. The primary aim of educa- 
tion in the broadest sense of this word is to "form a man" or rather 
to help a child of man attain his full formation or his complete- 
ness as a man. The other aims (to convey the heritage of culture of 
a given area of civilization, to prepare for life in society and for 
good citizenship, and to secure mental equipment required for im- 
plementing a particular function in the social whole, for performing 
family responsibilities, and for making a living) are corollaries and 
essential but secondary aims. (Parenthetically, it must be observed 
that education in the broad sense of the word continues during the 
entire life-time of every one of us. The school system is only a 
partial and inchoative agency with respect to the task of education. 

2. It is because he misses the notion of basic liberal education that Professor 
Boas, who takes pleasure in assailing the "mythological monster known as the 
cultivated man," thinks that in the space of a four-year college education a 
student cannot attain this goal. (Ann Arbor Conference on Higher Educa- 
tion. Cf. New York Times, November 26, 1952.) He would be right if col- 
lege education had to achieve its task at the level of science, instead of at the 
level of natural intelligence. 

M A R 1 T A 1 N 63 

Moreover, because it deals essentially with that which can be taught, 
it refers to the education and formation of intelligence more than 
of the will.) 

It is clear that the primary aim is determined by human nature. 
The question, "What is man?" is the unavoidable preamble to any 
philosophy of education. It has two implications: first, a philosophic 
or "ontological" implication, dealing with human nature in its es- 
sential being; second, a scientific or "empiriological" implication, 
dealing with human nature in the phenomenal characteristics that 
lie open to our modern sciences of observation and measurement. 
These two implications are in no way incompatible; they comple- 
ment each other. 

With respect to both the mind and the body, science, and es- 
pecially empirical psychology, provides us with invaluable and ever 
growing information, by which our practical approach to the child 
and the youth must profit. But, by itself, it can neither primarily 
found nor primarily guide education, for education needs primarily 
to know what man is what are the constitutive principles of his 
being, what is his place and value in the world, what is his destiny. 
This has to do with the philosophical knowledge of man including 
additional data which relate to his existential condition. 

The Thomist idea of man coincides with the Greek, Jewish, and 
Christian idea: man as an animal endowed with reason, whose su- 
preme dignity is in the intellect; and man as a free individual in 
personal relation with God, whose supreme righteousness consists 
in voluntarily obeying the law of God; and man as a sinful and 
wounded creature called to divine life and to the freedom of grace, 
whose supreme perfection consists in love. 

At the same time Thomist philosophy lays stress on the basic 
psychosomatic unity of the human being (one single substance com- 
posed of matter and a spiritual "form" or entelechy) thus affording 
us with a philosophical key for a sound interpretation of great 
modern discoveries in neurology and psychiatry. Also, it lays stress 
on the notion of human personality. Man is a person, who holds 
himself in hand by his intelligence and his will. He does not exist 
merely as a physical being. There is in him a richer and nobler 
existence: He has spiritual superexistence, through knowledge and 
love. He is thus, in some way, a whole, and not merely a part; he 


is a universe unto himself, a microcosm in which the great universe 
can be encompassed through knowledge. Through love he can give 
himself freely to beings who are to him, as it were, other selves; 
and for this relationship no equivalent can be found in the physical 

Man evolves in history. Yet his nature as such, his place and value 
in the cosmos, his dignity, rights, and aspirations as a person, and 
his destiny do not change. Consequently, the secondary aims of 
education have to be adjusted to changing conditions in successive 
historical periods; but as concerns the primary aim, as well as the 
intrinsic domination it exercises on the secondary aims, it is sheer 
illusion to speak of a ceaseless reconstruction of the aims of 

Concerning Practical A-pplication. Human nature does not change, 
but our knowledge of it may be philosophically warped or inade- 
quate. Moreover, this knowledge steadily progresses in the field of 
the factual and empiriological sciences. 

The philosophical knowledge of man which reigned as a rule in 
the last three centuries was basically Cartesian, and Thomist phi- 
losophy is strongly opposed both to Cartesian dualism and to the 
idealist and narrowly rationalistic bias it made prevalent in educa- 
tion. On the other hand, while shifting toward a philosophical 
outlook which is equally warped, but in the opposite way (the em- 
piricist, positivist, or materialist bias), our epoch witnesses outstand- 
ing progress in the experimental sciences of man. 

Accordingly I would say that both in its reaction against Cartesian 
rationalism and its heedfulness of the achievements of modern psy- 
chology, progressive education provides us with invaluable improve- 
ments. Our understanding of the realities connected with the aims 
of education has become truer and deeper. For example, due atten- 
tion has been paid to the unconscious, the instincts, the nonrational 
elements in the psyche of the child. At the same time, educational 
techniques are in a process of continual broadening and enriching, 
so that it is right to speak of a ceaseless reconstruction of the 
means of education, so long as such reconstruction does not indulge 
in errors deriving from pseudophilosophical extrapolation, like the 
overemphasis on sex and sexual complexes due to cheap psychology 
and spurious Freudianism, or the "cultural epoch" theory of G. 


Stanley Hall with free rein to be given to the instincts of the child 
coming to civilization through savagery. The greatest attention must 
be paid in this connection to Piaget's experiments and similar re- 
searches and to renewals in the educational approach, such as those 
advocated by Montessori. 


Concerning Philosophical Principles. There is no unity or integra- 
tion without a stable hierarchy of values. Now in the true hierarchy 
of values, according to Thomist philosophy, knowledge and love of 
what is above time are superior to, and embrace and quicken, knowl- 
edge and love of what is within time. Charity, which loves God 
and embraces all men in this very love, is the supreme virtue. In the 
intellectual realm, wisdom, which knows things eternal and creates 
order and unity in the mind, is superior to science or to knowledge 
through particular causes; and the speculative intellect, which 
knows for the sake of knowing, comes before the practical intellect, 
which knows for the sake of action. In such a hierarchy of values, 
what is infravalent is not sacrificed to, but kept alive by, what is 
supravalent, because everything is appendent to faith in truth. 
Aristotle was right in sensing that contemplation is in itself better 
than action and more fitted to what is the most spiritual in man, but 
Arisotelian contemplation was purely intellectual and theoretical, 
while Christian contemplation, being rooted in love, superabounds in 

Education obviously does not have to make of the child or the 
youth a scientist, a sage, and a contemplative. Yet, if the word "con- 
templation" is taken in its original and simplest sense (to contemplate 
is simply to see and to enjoy seeing), leaving aside its highest- 
metaphysical or religious connotations, it must be said that 
knowledge is contemplative in nature, and that education, in its 
final and highest achievements, tends to develop the contemplative 
capacity of the human mind. It does so neither in order to have the 
mind come to a stop in the act of knowing and contemplating, nor 
in order to make knowledge and contemplation subservient to ac- 
tion, but in order that once man has reached a stage where the har- 
mony of his inner energies has been brought to full completion, his 
action on the world and on the human community, and his creative 


power at the service of his fellow-men, may overflow from his 
contemplative contact with reality both with the visible and in- 
visible realities in the midst of which he lives and moves. 

While dealing with the first steps in man's formation, education 
must itself be aware of the genuine hierarchy of intellectual values, 
be guided by such awareness in its task of preparation, preserve in 
the youth the natural germs of what is best in the life of the mind, 
and equip them with the beginnings of those disciplines of knowl- 
edge which matter most to man. It is a pity to see so many young 
people bewildered by highly developed and specialized, but chaotic, 
instruction about anything whatever in the field of particular sci- 
ences and miserably ignorant of everything that concerns God and 
the deepest realities in man and the world. What we are faced with, 
in this regard, is a kind of regular frustration by adults and the 
general organization of teaching of certain of the most vital needs 
and aspirations, and even of the basic rights, of intellectual nature 
in young persons. 

Concerning Practical Application. One of the vices of the sort of 
education described in the Lynds' Middletoivn 3 was not only to 
treat the child as a piece of inert matter to be moulded from the 
outside but also to try to make him into a reduction or imitation of 
an adult, a kind of perfect manufactured intellectual dwarf. Hence, 
the prevalence of a merely theoretical and abstract formation, in 
accordance with an ideal of the adult man himself which, by the 
most confusing abuse of language, is often described as "contem- 
plative," though it has nothing to do with genuine contemplative 
virtues, and refers in actual fact to that particular selfishness of the 
mind which comes about when intelligence is both separated from 
things occupied only with handling and moving ideas and words 
and separated from the emotional and affective tonus of life. This 
ideal was in its heyday during the seventeenth and eighteenth cen- 
turies. It was far removed from the Aristotelian one; it originated, 
philosophically, in Cartesian rationalism and, socially, in a trend, 
among the elite, toward a kind of lofty Epicurean freedom. Accord- 
ing to it, the enviable condition of the man of leisure was to sit 
down before the spectacle of the achievements of the human mind 

3. Robert S. Lynd and Helen M. Lynd, Middletown: A Study of Con- 
temporary American Culture. New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1929. 


and to taste the pleasure of "general ideas" without engaging either 
his heart or his intellect in the reality of things. 

Out of gear as it may have been, the pragmatist protest against 
such an attitude was sound in its origin. Concern for action and 
practical life was to be rehabilitated in education. The misfortune 
was that the true hierarchy of values was broken at the same time. 
We have to integrate many views of pragmatism and progressive 
education but at their appropriate place, which is secondary, and 
as regards especially the ways and means of education in a nonprag- 
matist conception intent on the organic order of knowledge and 
directed toward wisdom. 

As I pointed out above, 4 the order of human virtues come to 
completion demands that practical action on the world and on 
the human community superabound from contemplation of truth, 
which means not only contemplation in its purest forms but, more 
generally, intellectual grasping of reality and enjoyment of knowl- 
edge for its own sake. But in the educational process, what we have 
to do with is not human life as come to perfection; it is the very 
first beginnings of the lifelong movement toward such an ultimate 
stage. Then the perspective is reversed. Action must come first and 
concern for application, practical significance, and the impact of 
the things which are taught on man's existence not for action itself 
as final end, but in order to awaken progressively the child and 
the youth to seek and perceive truth for the sake of truth, to ex- 
ercise their power to think, and to sense the joy of intellection. 
From praxis to knowledge, this is the normal method of education, 
especially in its first steps. 

Educational Process 

The remarks I just made about action must be qualified on a 
particular point: If it is a question of the atmosphere of the class- 
room, contemplation, in a sense, and especially as regards young 
children, should come first; in Montessorian classes, which obey the 
two fundamental rules of silence and personal effort, the behavior 
of children changes completely; they move as they work, but with 
no agitation, and become so concentrated and so absorbed in their 
task that the visitor in these noiseless classrooms is surprised to have 

4. See supra, p. 65. 


the impression of a monastic climate. Miss H61ne Lubienska de 
Lenval observes that these children simply reveal, in an appropriate 
environment, the contemplative capacity peculiar to early childhood 
(ages two to eight). They are contemplative, as she puts it, "in the 
sense that they are capable of steadily fixing their attention by 
absorbing themselves in a disinterested admiration with no verbal 
manifestation (the latter will arise in due time after a long silent 
maturation). This contemplation seems akin to poetic inspiration." 
And because "it comes about most often before objects that rep- 
resent dimensions and numbers," she calls it "Pythagorean contem- 
plation." 5 This contemplative faculty of the child is ephemeral, it 
disappears at the moment when discursive thought replaces in- 
tuitive thought. But something of it remains, for those who once 
enjoyed it show remarkable powers of attention in later years. 

If we pass now to the question of learning by way of solving 
problems, I would say that this method of learning is normally a 
way to truth-grasping or "contemplative" learning, just as praxis 
is a way to knowledge. It is a normal auxiliary means, destined to 
sustain personal initiative and interest, and to prevent contemplative 
learning from degenerating into passivity and inert docility. For 
there is no contemplative learning if it does not respond to and 
stimulate a searching effort of the mind, an anxiety to know. Truth, 
in education, can be betrayed in two ways: either by substituting 
mechanical drill, and skill in solving difficulties, for the elan toward 
knowledge; or by putting the intellect of the student to sleep in 
ready-made formulas, which he accepts and memorizes without en- 
gaging his own self in the grasping of what they supposedly convey 
to him. Genuine contemplative or truth-grasping learning fails in 
its very nature if it does not develop in the youth both critical ac- 
tivity and a kind of thirst and anguish whose reward will be the 
very joy of perceiving truth. 

But, in this section on the educational process, the point I should 
like especially to consider is the relationship between adults and 

In the educational task, adult people do not have to impose co- 
ercion on children, with a kind of paternalism or rather imperialism 

5. He"lene Lubienska de Lenval, "La Contemplation Silencieuse chez les 
Enfants," Nova et Vetera (Fribourg, Switzerland), July-September, 1951. 


of the grown-ups, in order to impress their own image upon the 
child as upon a bit of clay. But what this service requires from them 
is, first, love and, then, authority I mean genuine authority, not 
arbitrary power intellectual authority to teach and moral authority 
to be respected and listened to. For the child is entitled to expect 
from them what he needs: to be positively guided and to learn 
what he is ignorant of. 

What do adults essentially owe to youth in the educational task? 
First of all, what corresponds to the primary aim of education, 
that is, both truth to be known at the various degrees of the scale of 
knowledge and the capacity to think and make a personal judg- 
ment, to be developed, equipped, and firmly established; then, what 
corresponds to the secondary aims of education, especially the heri- 
tage of a given culture, to be conveyed. 

Now, if we consider the way in which adults perform their task 
with respect to youth, in practice and actual existence, it seems 
that more often than not children are victims of the grown-ups 
rather than the beneficiaries of their good services. Hence, pro- 
gressive education might be described as expressing a kind of revolt 
against the reign of adults. This would have been all for the good 
if youth had not been made, once again, a victim, this time not of the 
selfish domination of the world of the grown-ups, but of the illusions 
and irresponsibility of well-intentioned adults, who rightly insist 
on the freedom of the child but what kind of freedom? Too often 
freedom from any rule or freedom to do as the child pleases, in- 
stead of genuine freedom for the child to develop as a man and 
genuine progress toward autonomy. 

A twofold crucial problem arises when the educational task has 
to be performed in a changing world of knowledge and a changing 
world of culture and social conditions. 

As concerns the social changes in the contemporary world, 
teachers have neither to make the school into a stronghold of the 
established order nor to make it into a weapon to change society. 
The dilemma could not be solved if the primary aim and function 
of education were defined in relation to society and social work. 
In reality they are defined in relation to intelligence. Then the dilem- 
ma is transcended because teachers must be concerned, above all, 
with helping minds to become articulate, free, and autonomous. It 


is neither for conservative nor for revolutionary purposes but for 
the general purpose of teaching how to think, that they have to 
foster in the pupils the principles of the democratic charter. 

As concerns our changing world of knowledge, the answer is 
simple in itself: vetera novis augere\ all new gains and discoveries 
should be used, not to shatter and reject what has been acquired by 
the past, but to augment it: a work of integration, not of destruc- 
tion. This, however, is easier said than done. For it presupposes that 
the mind of the adults, especially the teachers, is not itself in a state 
of division and anarchy, and that the adults are in possession of 
what they have to communicate, namely, wisdom and integrated 
knowledge. Not to speak of exceptionally remarkable achievements 
in interdepartmental co-operation like the "Committee on Social 
Thought" in the University of Chicago, one possible remedy for the 
lack of integration in the minds of teachers themselves would be, in 
my opinion, the development, on a large scale, of study clubs and 
seminars in which teachers belonging to various disciplines and de- 
partments would meet together, on a voluntary basis, and discuss 
basic problems which are relevant to the unity of knowledge and 
which have an impact on a variety of fields, as well as controversial 
issues that are raised by contemporary research and creative activity. 
I am convinced that it would thus be possible for fresh and quicken- 
ing blood to circulate in the campuses. But such initiative could ob- 
viously start and succeed only if teachers had the necessary free time, 
that is to say, if they were not faced with overburdened schedules 
and a much too heavy number of teaching hours one of the most 
serious impediments to the progress of the present educational sys- 
tem. It is preposterous to ask people who lead an enslaved life to per- 
form a task of liberation, which the educational task is by essence. 

Education and the Individual 


Among the many questions which can be discussed under this 
heading, the one I shall point out is the essential question: Who is 
the "principal agent" in the educational process? 

The teacher exercises a real causal power on the mind of the 
pupil, but in the manner in which a doctor acts to heal his patient: 
by assisting nature and co-operating with it. Education, like medi- 


cine, is ars co-operativa naturae. The contention of Thomist phi- 
losophy is that in both cases nature (the vital energies of nature in 
the patient, the intellectual energies of nature in the pupil) is the 
principal agent, on whose own activity the process primarily de- 
pends. The principal agent in the educational process is not the 
teacher, but the student. 6 


This basic truth was forgotten or disregarded by the advocates 
of education by the rod. Here we have the fundamental vice of 
the "Middletown" conception of the school. Into whatever exag- 
geration it may have fallen, progressive education has had the merit 
of putting the forgotten truth in question in the foreground. The 
"principal agent" is not able to give himself what he does not have. 
He would lead himself astray if he acted at random. He must be 
taught and guided: But the main thing in this teaching process is 
that his natural and spontaneous activity be always respected and 
his power of insight and judgment always fostered, so that at each 
step he may master the subject matter in which he is instructed. 
In this perspective, what matters most is to develop in the child the 
"intuitivity" of the mind and its spiritual discriminating and crea- 
tive energies. The educational venture is a ceaseless appeal to intel- 
ligence and free will in the young person. 

The most precious gift in an educator is a sort of sacred and 
loving attention to the child's mysterious identity, which is a hid- 
den thing that no techniques can reach. Encouragement is as 
fundamentally necessary as humiliation is harmful. But what must 
be specially stressed is the fact that the teacher has to center the 
acquisition of knowledge and solid formation of the mind on the 
freeing of the learner's intuitive power. 

The liberation of which I am speaking depends essentially, more- 
over, on the free adhesion of the mind to the objective reality to 
be seen: 

Let us never deceive or rebuke the thirst for seeing in youth's intelli- 
gence! The freeing of the intuitive power is achieved in the soul through 
the object grasped, the intelligible grasping toward which this power 

6. Cf. Thomas Aquinas, Sum. theol., 1, q. 117, a. i; Contra Gent., Bk. TI, 
chap. Ixxv; De Verit., q. n, a. i. 


naturally tends. The germ of insight starts within a preconscious intel- 
lectual cloud, arising from experience, imagination, and a kind of spirit- 
ual feeling, but it is from the outset a tending toward an object to be 
grasped. And to the extent that this tendency is set free and the intellect 
becomes accustomed to grasping, seeing, expressing the objects toward 
which it tends, to that very extent its intuitive power is liberated and 
strengthened. 7 

In asking a youth to read a book, let us get him to undertake a real 
spiritual adventure and meet and struggle with the internal world of a 
given man, instead of glancing over a collection of bits of thought and 
dead opinions, looked upon from without and with sheer indifference, 
according to the horrible custom of so many victims of what they call 
"being informed." Perhaps with such methods the curriculum will lose 
a little in scope, which will be all to the good. 8 

School and Society 


Concerning Philosophical Principles. A society of free men im- 
plies agreement between minds and wills on the bases of life in 
common. There are, thus, a certain number of tenets about the 
dignity of the human person, human rights, human equality, free- 
dom, justice, and law on which democracy presupposes common 
consent and which constitute what may be called the democratic 
charter. Without a general, firm, and reasoned-out conviction con- 
cerning such tenets, democracy cannot survive. 

But these basic tenets and this charter of freedom are of a 
strictly practical character at the point of convergence of the 
theoretical approaches peculiar to the various, even opposite, schools 
of thought which are rooted in the history of modern nations. No 
common assent can be required by society regarding the theoretical 
jwtifications, the conceptions of the world and of life, the phi- 
losophical or religious creeds which found, or claim to found, the 
practical tenets of the democratic charter. A genuine democracy 
cannot impose on its citizens or demand from them, as a condition 
for their belonging to the city, any philosophic or any religious 

7. Jacques Maritain, Education at the Crossroads, p. 44. New Haven, Con- 
necticut: Yale University Press, 1943. 

8. Ibid., pp. 44-45. 


As a result, as I have pointed out elsewhere: 

The body politic has the right and the duty to promote among its citi- 
zens, mainly through education, the human and temporal and essentially 
practical creed on which depend national communion and civil peace. 
It has no right, as a merely temporal or secular body, to impose on the 
citizens or to demand from them a rule of faith or a conf ormism of reason, 
a philosophical or religious creed which would present itself as the only 
possible justification of the practical charter through which the people's 
common secular faith expresses itself. The important thing for the body 
politic is that the democratic sense be in fact kept alive by the adherence 
of minds, however diverse, to this moral charter. The ways and the justi- 
fications by means of which this common adherence is brought about per- 
tain to the freedom of minds and consciences, 9 

Since education (one of the essential, though secondary, aims of 
which is to prepare for life in society and good citizenship) is 
obviously the primary means to foster common conviction in the 
democratic charter, a particularly serious and difficult problem 
arises at this point for educational philosophy. 

On the one hand, the educational system has a duty to see to the 
teaching of the charter of freedom. Yet it can do this only in the 
name of the common assent through which the charter in question is 
held true by the people. And thus since in actual fact the body 
politic is divided in its fundamental theoretical conceptions, and 
since the democratic state cannot impose any philosophical or reli- 
gious creed the educational system, in seeing to the teaching of the 
common charter, can and must cling only to the common practical 
recognition of the merely practical tenets upon which the people 
have agreed to live together, despite the diversity or the opposition 
between their spiritual traditions and schools of thought. 

On the other hand, there is no belief except in what is held to 
be intrinsically established in truth nor any assent of the intellect 
without a theoretical foundation and justification. Thus, if the edu- 
cational system is to perform its duty and inculcate the democratic 
charter in a really efficacious way, it cannot help resorting to the 
philosophical or religious traditions and schools of thought which 
are spontaneously at work in the consciousness of the nation and 
which have contributed historically to its formation. 

9. Jacques Maritain, Man and the State, pp. 111-12. Chicago: University of 
Chicago Press, 1951. 


Adherence to one or another of those schools of thought rests 
with the freedom of each person. But it would be sheer illusion to 
think that the democratic charter could be efficiently taught if it 
were separated from the roots that give it consistency and vigor 
in the mind of youth, and if it were reduced to a mere series of 
abstract formulas bookish, bloodless, and cut off from life. Those 
who teach the democratic charter must stake on it their personal 
convictions, their consciences, and the depth of their moral lives. 
They must, therefore, explain and justify its articles in the light of 
the philosophical or religious faith to which they cling and which 
quickens their belief in it. 

Now, if every teacher does thus put all his philosophical or religious 
convictions, his personal faith, and his soul, into the effort to confirm and 
vivify the moral charter of democracy, then it is clear that such teaching 
demands a certain spontaneous adaptation between the one who gives 
and the one who receives, between the aspiration animating the teacher 
and the basic conceptions that the student holds from his home circle and 
his social milieu and that his family feels the duty of fostering and de- 
veloping in him. 10 

The conclusion is obvious. For the very sake of providing unity 
in the adherence to the democratic charter, a sound pluralism must 
obtain in the means. Inner differentiations must come into force in 
the structure of the educational system, which must admit within 
itself pluralistic patterns enabling teachers to put their entire con- 
victions and most personal inspiration in their teaching of the 
democratic charter. 

Concerning Practical Application 'with Respect to the Teaching 
of the Democratic Charter. After having put forward general views 
quite akin to those I just mentioned, Mahan states: 

I think we can set down one principle as basic: that public schools must 
recognize and acknowledge the various influences, both religious and 
areligious, which inspired our democratic ideal. . . . That principle is very 
broad and gives rise to seemingly insurmountable problems. How are we 
going to insure unbiased exposition of influence? There are several ways 
none of them very practical. 11 

10. Ibid., pp. 121-22. 

u. Thomas W. Mahan, "The Problem of a Democratic Philosophy of Edu- 
cation," School and Society, LXXVI (September 7, 1952), 193-96. 


I am ready to admit that no perfectly satisfactory solution can 
be found. In such a complex matter, some inherent difficulty or 
questionable aspect may always be pointed out. Nevertheless I 
keep on believing that prudential wisdom can invent and apply 
solutions which though more or less imperfect in some respect- 
will prove to be the best possible under given circumstances. 

I would like, first, to remark that any teacher entrusted with the 
teaching of the democratic charter should possess two comple- 
mentary qualities: On the one hand, he should be animated, as we 
have seen, by deep personal convictions, in which his whole 
philosophy of life is engaged for no teaching deprived of convic- 
tion can engender conviction; on the other hand, he should have 
such intellectual openness and generosity as to foster a sense of 
fellowship with respect to those who justify the democratic creed 
through other theoretical approaches this is required, as we have 
seen, by the very nature of the thing taught. And this, moreover, 
is of a nature to lessen to some extent the difficulty of our problem, 
when it comes to minorities which do not share in the philosophical 
or religious outlook of the teacher, and which, of course, must 
not be discriminated against. 

Now there are, in my opinion as regards practical application, 
three possible ways which might be submitted for consideration. 

In the first place, we might imagine that when the schools are 
located in communities each one of which is homogeneous as to its 
spiritual traditions, the teachers who are in charge of the democratic 
charter could be allotted such or such a particular area, according 
to their own wishes as well as to the moral geography of the local 
communities, so that their own personal religious or philosophical 
convictions would roughly correspond to those which prevail in the 
social environment. 

In the second place, when the local communities in which schools 
are located are heterogeneous as to their spiritual traditions, the 
teaching of the democratic charter might be divided among a 
few different teachers whose respective personal outlooks cor- 
respond in broad outline to the main religious or philosophical tradi- 
tions represented in the student population. 

In the third place, instead of having the democratic charter taught 
as a special part of the curriculum, we might have it embodied in 


a new discipline which would be introduced into the curriculum, 
and which, being merely historical, would permit the teacher, while 
giving a free rein to his own personal inspiration, to put less em- 
phasis on the theoretical principles which justify for him the secular 
democratic faith. The new discipline in question would bring to- 
gether, in the basic framework of national history and history of 
civilization, matters pertaining to the humanities, human sciences, 
social philosophy, and philosophy of law, all these to be centered 
on the development and significance of the great ideas comprised 
in the common charter. Thus, this charter would be taught in a 
concrete and comprehensive manner, in the light of the great poets, 
thinkers, and heroes of mankind, of our knowledge of man, and of 
the historical life of the nation. 

Would the three ways I just mentioned answer all the require- 
ments of the practical issue under discussion? They are, it seems to 
me, at least worthy of being tentatively tried and tested. They are 
the only ways I am able to conceive of, but I hope that other 
and better ones can be proposed. In any case the fact remains that 
the teaching of the democratic charter is, today, one of the chief 
obligations of education and no practical solution is possible except 
along the lines of some pluralistic arrangement. 

Americans may disagree as to why American democracy is right, but 
they must agree that there are reasons why it is right. I do not know how 
public education can meet the demand upon it to insure that conviction. 
I do know that, if the public schools are allowed to swallow the philoso- 
phy of scientific humanism because of its purported neutrality, they will 
fail to meet their obligations to further the common good. 12 

Concerning Practical Application with Respect to School Life. 
From the point of view of practical application, there are other 
considerations whose relevance should be stressed as regards the 
preparation of the youth for a real understanding of the democratic 
way of life. These considerations no longer have to do with the 
teaching, they have rather to do with the very life of the school 
and the college. 

There, in the life of the school and the college, the beginnings 
of the habits and virtues of freedom and responsibility should take 
place in actual exercise. In other words, the students should not be 

12. Thomas W. Mahan, he. cit. 9 p. 196. 


a merely receptive element in the life of that kind of republic 
which is the school or the college. They should, to some extent, 
actively participate in it. The best way for this would obtain, in 
my opinion, if they were freely organized in teams, responsible for 
the discipline of their members and their progress in work. 

Such an experiment was made in some places with surprisingly 
good results. The teams are formed by the students themselves, 
without any interference from school authorities; they elect their 
own captains; they have regular meetings which no teacher at- 
tendsin which they examine and discuss how the group behaves 
and the questions with which it is confronted. Their captains, on 
the other hand, as representatives of each team, have regular con- 
tacts with the school authorities, to whom they convey the sug- 
gestions, experiences, and problems of the group. So the students are 
actually interested in the organizaton of studies, the general dis- 
cipline, the "political life" of the school or the college, and they can 
play a sort of consultative part in the activity of the educational 

With such methods, the youth become concretely aware of, and 
attached to, the democratic way of life, while a sense of dignity 
and self discipline, collective autonomy, and collective honor de- 
velops in them. In a manner adapted to the age and capacity of 
students, schools and universities should be laboratories in the 
responsibilities of freedom and the qualities of the mind proper to 
democratic citizenship. It can hardly be stated that no improvement 
is needed in this respect. Displays of oratory, making students proud 
of their skill in airing opinions, and intoxicated with words, seem 
to me to be only illusory compensations for the lack I just alluded to. 


Concerning Philosophical Principles. Education directed toward 
wisdom, centered on the humanities, aiming to develop in people 
the capacity to think correctly and to enjoy truth and beauty, is 
education for freedom, or liberal education. Whatever his particular 
vocation may be, and whatever special training his vocation may 
require, every human being is entitled to receive such a properly 
human and humanistic education. 


Liberal education was restricted in the past to the children of 
the upper classes. This very fact reacted on the way in which it 
was itself conceived. Liberal education for all obliges us, I believe, 
to undertake a double reconsideration. 

In the first place, a serious recasting of the very concept of the 
humanities and the liberal arts has been made necessary by the de- 
velopment of human knowledge in modern centuries. The notion 
of the humanistic disciplines and the field of liberal arts must be 
enlarged so as to comprise physics and the natural sciences, the 
history of sciences, anthropology and the other human sciences, 
with the history of cultures and civilizations, even technology (in so 
far as the activity of the spirit is involved), and the history of 
manual work and the arts, both mechanical and fine arts. 

I would like to insist, in particular, that physics and the natural 
sciences must be considered one of the chief branches of the liberal 
arts. They are mainly concerned with the mathematical reading of 
natural phenomena, and they insure in this way the domination of 
the human spirit over the world of matter, not in terms of ontological 
causes but rather in terms of number and measurement. Thus they 
appear, so to speak, as a final realization of the Pythagorean and 
Platonist trends of thought in the very field of that world of ex- 
perience and becoming which Plato looked upon as a shadow on 
the wall of the cave. Physics and the natural sciences, if they are 
taught not only for the sake of practical applications but essential- 
ly for the sake of knowledge, provide man with a vision of the uni- 
verse and a sense of the sacred, exacting, unbending objectivity of 
the humblest truth, which play an essential part in the liberation of 
the mind and in liberal education. Physics, like mathematics, if it 
is viewed in the creative power from which great discoveries pro- 
ceed, is close to poetry. If it were taught as it demands to be, in 
the light of the spiritual workings of man, it should be revered 
as a liberal art of the first rank and an integral part of the humanities. 

As to the human sciences, the positivistic bias with which, as a 
rule, they are cultivated today makes their humanistic value rather 
questionable indeed. Yet this is an abnormal situation, for which 
they themselves are not responsible. It would be a great misfortune, 
and a blunder, to exclude from the realm of the humanities the sci- 
ences of man, even though developed at the level of empiriological 


knowledge. The problem for them, as for physics and the other 
sciences of phenomena, is to be set free, in the minds of scientists, 
from the pseudophilosophical prejudices which have preyed upon 
them as parasites. They should be taught, in so far as they are a 
part of a program in the humanities, from a philosophical point of 
view, with reference to the particular epistemological approach 
they involve, and with a constant concern, either for the under- 
standing of human nature and the development of its potentialities, 
or for the understanding of the ways in which the human mind 

We have also to stress the crucial importance of the history of 
sciences with respect to humanistic education. In the perspective 
of the humanities, the genesis of science in the human mind and its 
progress, adventures, and vicissitudes in the course of history have 
as much illuminating power as the results that science attains and 
the changing disclosures on the universe of nature that it offers us 
in various periods of its development. Knowledge of the succession 
of scientific theories, of the inner logic, and also of the part of 
chance and contingency, that can be observed in their evolution, 
and of the actual ways through which scientific imagination pro- 
ceeds from discovery to discovery can alone give the student a real 
understanding of scientific truth and its authentic range. The history 
of sciences is the genuine instrument through which physical sci- 
ences can be integrated in the humanities and their humanistic value 
brought out in full light. 

In the second place, it has become indispensable to give full 
recognition to the concept of basic liberal education and to the 
typical requirements it involves. I have just indicated the necessary 
broadening of the matters comprised within the scope of the liberal 
arts and the humanities. What I am now emphasizing is the nec- 
essary restriction of the burden imposed on the student, and of the 
curriculum, as concerns the very ways and perspective in which the 
matters in question have to be taught. 

Let us refer to the considerations laid down in a previous section 
on natural intelligence and basic liberal education. 13 On the one 
hand, the objective of basic liberal education is not the acquisition 
of science itself or art itself, along with the intellectual virtues in- 

13. See supra, pp. 61-62. 


volved, but rather the grasp of their meaning and the comprehen- 
sion of the truth and beauty they yield. We grasp the meaning of 
a science or an art when we understand its object, nature, and 
scope, and the particular species of truth or beauty it discloses to 
us. The objective of basic liberal education is to see to it that the 
young person grasps this truth or beauty through the natural powers 
and gifts of his mind and the natural intuitive energy of his reason 
backed up by his whole sensuous, imaginative, and emotional 

On the other hand, as concerns the content of knowledge, of 
the things that the young person has to learn, this content is to be 
determined by the very requirements of the grasp in question. Many 
things which were taught in the past in liberal education are use- 
less; many things which were not taught in the past in liberal edu- 
cation are necessary in this regard. But in any case, the subjects and 
methods which are proper to graduate studies have no place at 
this level. In short, the guiding principle is less factual information 
and more intellectual enjoyment. The teaching should be concen- 
trated on awakening the minds to a few basic intuitions or intellec- 
tual perceptions in each particular discipline, through which what is 
essentially illuminating as to the truth of things learned is definitely 
and unshakably possessed. The result would be both a rise in quality 
of the teaching received and an alleviation of the material burden 
imposed by the curriculum. 

Concerning Practical Application. If all the preceding remarks 
are true, we see that the distinction between basic liberal education 
and higher learning or graduate studies should be emphasized: be- 
cause the first deals with a world of knowledge appropriate to 
natural intelligence, the second with a world of knowledge appropri- 
ate to intellectual virtues. 

When he enters this world of knowledge proper to higher learn- 
ing, or the world of technical and professional studies, or the world 
of practical activity in a given job the youth will specialize in a 
particular field. At the same time he will have the opportunity, either 
by means of the university or the technological institutions, or by 
his own initiative, to pursue and improve his humanistic education. 
This would be simply impossible if he were not previously equipped 
with an adequate basic liberal education. 


Basic liberal education should cover both high school and col- 
lege. During high-school years, the mode of teaching would be 
adapted to the freshness and spontaneous curiosity of budding 
reason, stirred and nourished by the life of the imagination. When 
it comes to college years, we would have to do with natural in- 
telligence in a state of growth, with its full natural aspirations to 
universal knowledge and, at the same time, with its normal tend- 
ency to develop some more perfect habitus or disposition relating to 
preparation for a particular field of activity. So the college would 
have to insure both basic liberal education in its final stages and 
the development of a particular state of capacity. The best arrange- 
ment for this purpose would be to have the college divided into a 
number of fields of concentration or fields of primary interest, each 
one represented by a given school (or "institut" in the French sense 
of this word). In effect, this would be to have the college divided 
into a number of schools of oriented humanities, all of which would 
be dedicated to basic liberal education, but each of which would be 
concerned with preparatory study in a particular field of activity, 
thus dealing with the beginnings and first development of a given in- 
tellectual virtue or a given intellectual skill. And basic liberal ed- 
ucation rather than this preparatory study would be the primary 
aim. But precisely in order to make basic liberal education fully 
efficacious, the manner in which it would be given, and the teaching 
organized, would take into consideration the particular intellectual 
virtue, or the particular intellectual skill, to be developed in the 
future scientist or businessman, artist, doctor, newspaperman, teach- 
er, lawyer, or specialist in government. 

I mean that all the students would have to attend courses in all 
the matters of the curriculum in basic liberal education; but, on the 
one hand, the apportionment of the hours given to certain of these 
courses might be different for the students in the various schools of 
oriented humanities; and, on the other hand, special courses in 
each of these schools would enlighten the student on the vital 
relationship between the particular discipline being taught and the 
chief disciplines of the common curriculum. 

Thus, the essential hierarchy of values inherent in liberal educa- 
tion would be preserved, with the main emphasis, as to the disci- 
plines, on philosophy; and, as to the ways and methods, on the 


reading of great books. But the practical arrangement of the cur- 
riculum would be attuned, in the manner 1 just indicated, to what 
will be later on, in actual fact, the principal activity of the person 
who is now a student. In this way it would be easier to insure the 
unity and integration of the teaching, especially if the teachers of 
each school of oriented humanities co-operated in a close and con- 
stant manner so as to elaborate and enforce a common educational 
policy. And the students would receive a kind of preprofessional 
training (unavoidable as it is in actual existence) which, instead of 
impairing liberal education and worming its way into it like a para- 
site, would serve to make the young person more vitally interested 
in liberal education and more deeply penetrated by it. 

The notion of basic liberal education, with the kind of recasting 
of the list of liberal arts and the method of teaching the humanities 
we have considered, is of a nature, it seems to me, to give practical 
and existential value to the concept of liberal education for all. On 
the one hand, basic liberal education, dealing only with the sphere 
of knowledge and the educational approach appropriate to natural 
intelligence and respecting the need of natural intelligence for unity 
and integration, avoids any burden of pseudoscience to be imposed 
on the student and feeds on the spontaneous, natural interests of his 
mind. On the other hand, given the broadening of the field of liberal 
arts and humanities, on the necessity of which I have laid stress, 
liberal education would cease being considered an almost exclusively 
literary education. Since the humanities in our age of culture re- 
quire articulate knowledge of the achievements of the human mind 
in science as well as in literature and art, and since it is normal to 
attune, during college years, the common teaching of the humani- 
ties, essential for all, to a particular preparatory training diversified 
according to the various prospective vocations of the students, basic 
liberal education is adapted to all the real needs which the liberal 
education of the past was reproached with being unable to satisfy. 

Basic liberal education does not look upon students as future 
professors or specialists in all the branches of knowledge and the 
liberal arts taught in the curriculum. It does not look upon them 
as future gentlemen or members of the privileged class. It looks 
upon them as future citizens, who must act as free men and who are 
able to make sound and independent judgments in new and changing 


situations, either with respect to the body politic or to their own 
particular task. It is also to be expected that these future citizens 
would educate their children and discuss with them competently 
the matters taught in school. Moreover, it is assumed that they 
would dedicate their own leisure time to those activities of rest 
through which man enjoys the common heritage of knowledge and 
beauty, or those activities of superabundance through which he 
helps his fellow-men with generosity. 

School and Religion 


Concerning Philosophical Principles. Formation in moral life and 
virtues is an essential part, indeed the most important part, of the 
primary aim of education in the broad sense of the word. School 
and college education is not equipped to secure it in a full and com- 
plete manner; yet it is bound to contribute positively and efficacious- 
ly to the moral formation of the youth. 

This depends a great deal on the general inspiration of the teach- 
ing, especially on the way in which study in the humanities and 
the reading of the works of great poets and writers convey to 
young people the treasure of moral ideas and moral experience of 
mankind. Yet the assistance of religious education is basically needed. 
It is a fact that we live in the Judaeo-Christian tradition. And, over 
and above all, it is a fundamental human datum that moral life, in 
one way or another, sometimes unconsciously, is linked with reli- 
gious belief and experience. If the existence of the One who is the 
Absolute Being and the Absolute Good is not recognized and be- 
lieved in, no certitude in the unconditional and obligatory value of 
moral law and ethical standards can be validly established and 
efficaciously adhered to. 

It is, therefore, an obligation for the school and the college, not 
only to enlighten students on moral matters, but also to allow them 
to receive full religious education. 

Concerning Practical Application. The practical problem has to do 
with secular (nondenominational) schools and universities and with 
state institutions. It might be said that the lay character of the cur- 
riculum or the matters of learning (what is called in French in- 
struction, in contradistinction to education) in the modern school 


system corresponds to the lay character of the modern state. This 
does not prevent religious inspiration, if the teachers have any, in the 
teaching of these matters any more than it prevents religious in- 
spiration in civil life. It only prevents secular institutions from dog- 
matizing in religious matters and taking a stand in favor of any 
particular religious denomination. 

Sharp distinction between church and state does not mean that 
the church and the state must live in ignorance of and isolation from 
each other. On the contrary, they have to co-operate. But this dis- 
tinction means that the proper domain of the state is lay or secular 
and that no privileged treatment, contrary to the principle of the 
equality of all before the law, can be given by the state to the citizens 
of any given creed, their activities, or their institutions. 

Accordingly, the solution, in the educational sphere, is to be sought 
in a sound application of the pluralist principle. Religious training 
should be made available to the student population not in a com- 
pulsory way, but on a voluntary basisin accordance with the wishes 
of the students and their parents, and given by representatives of the 
various faiths. 

Shall I rmi-ctrunter to the conventions of contemporary education 
if I a^f^fnat this religious training should not only be received from 
the family and the church community, independently of the life of 
the school, but should also be connected with this very life as an 
integral part thereof? In any case, this is my own conviction. If we 
are firmly and positively persuaded that religion is but error and 
superstition, this conviction will of course appear to us as nonsense; 
yet, in such a case we have no right to impose our own areligious 
or irreligious philosophy on our fellow-citizens; we do have the 
right to shun religious training for our own children and to have 
them attend courses in good manners and civic morality or enjoy 
scientific entertainment, while the other students listen to their re- 
spective teachers in religion. But if we do not hold religion to be 
error and superstition, I do not see how we can assume that God is 
less entitled to have His place in the school than the electron or 
Professor Bertrand Russell. 

All serious-minded observers agree that the split between religion 
and life is the root of spiritual disorder from which we suffer today. 
It is preposterous to make this split begin in childhood and to per- 


petuate it in the educational system by cutting off religious training 
from the training proper to schools and colleges. Young people are 
aware of the fact that school and college education is in charge of 
furnishing their minds with each and every knowledge required by 
the realities of life. If religious knowledge is disconnected from this 
education, it is normal to deem it something separate and additional, 
either superfluous or merely related to private sentimentality. It is 
the very right of the child and the youth to be equipped through 
his formal education with religious knowledge as well as with any 
knowledge which plays an essential part in the life of man. 

Now if this solution, which, to my mind, is the normal one, is not 
accepted, secular schools and colleges should at least co-operate with 
the parents in giving the students who desire it appropriate free 
time and full facilities to be instructed in religious knowledge out- 
side the school or the college, and to participate in extracurricular 
religious groups and activities. Those who are not interested in 
religion would use for cultural activities of their choice the free 
time thus granted to their fellow students apart from curricular 


The moral aspect, furthermore, is far from being the only one 
to be considered in the issue we are discussing. Truth to be known 
about God and the relation of man to God matters more to religious 
faith than human actions to be regulated. In other words, it is not 
only in the moral perspective but also, and first of all, in the in- 
tellectual perspective and from the point of view of the full growth 
of the intellect that the issue must be examined. Then we are dealing 
with the interests of the intellect, that is to say, with what is the 
most immediate concern of school and college education. At this 
point it is relevant for me to state my views in terms of theology 
rather than of religion. For theology means knowledge in the state 
of science a knowledge which is both rooted in revealed data and 
rationally developed, logically and systematically articulated. Ac- 
cording to Thomas Aquinas, theology is both speculative and prac- 
tical (or moral), but primarily speculative, and more speculative 
than practical. Anyone who believes in a divine revelation can hardly 
fail to hold with him that theology, which gives us some under- 


standing of the divine mystery, is the highest wisdom that man can 
acquire as adapted to the procedures of human reason. It is superior 
to philosophy, which it employs as an appropriate instrument of 
rational disquisition, and is inferior only to contemplative or mysti- 
cal wisdom. 

How could the college be justified in doing without this wisdom 
while claiming fully to prepare and equip the minds of youth? No 
knowledge fit to fortify the mind and enlarge its scope can be absent 
from a place where universal knowledge is taught. For the believer, 
theology and theological controversy convey to us matters which 
are in themselves of supreme worth. For the unbeliever, they convey 
to us what a number of his fellow-men, at each step of an age-long 
civilized tradition, have fed on as matters of supreme worth. There 
may be unbelievers and believers together in the student population 
and in the teaching body of a university. But the university itself, 
as a living institution, cannot help taking a stand, and must take a 
stand, with respect to the existence of God. An atheist university, 
in which there is no teaching in theology, has intellectual consistency. 
A university which is not atheist, and in which there is no teaching 
in theology, has no intellectual consistency. Newman was right in 
stating that, if a university professes its scientific duty to exclude 
theology from its curriculum, "such an Institution cannot be what 
it professes, if there be a God." 

As a matter of fact, as I pointed out in a book from which 1 take 
the liberty of quoting here: 

Theological problems and controversies have permeated the whole de- 
velopment of Western culture and civilization, and are still at work in its 
depths, in such a way that the one who would ignore them would be 
fundamentally unable to grasp his own time and the meaning of its in- 
ternal conflicts. Thus impaired, he would be like a barbarous and disarmed 
child walking amidst the queer and incomprehensible trees, fountains, 
statues, gardens, ruins, and buildings still under construction, of the old 
park of civilization. The intellectual and political history of the sixteenth, 
seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries, the Reformation and the Counter 
Reformation, the internal state of British society after the Revolution in 
England, the achievements of the Pilgrim Fathers, the Rights of Man, and 
the further events in world history have their starting point in the great 
disputes on nature and grace of our classical age. Neither Dante nor Cer- 
vantes nor Rabelais nor Shakespeare nor John Donne nor William Blake, 


nor even Oscar Wilde or D. H. Lawrence, nor Giotto nor Michelangelo 
nor El Greco nor Zurbaran, nor Pascal nor Rousseau, nor Madison nor 
Jefferson nor Edgar Allan Poe nor Baudelaire, nor Goethe nor Nietzsche 
nor even Karl Marx, nor Tolstoy nor Dostoevski is actually understand- 
able without a serious theological background. Modern philosophy itself, 
from Descartes to Hegel, remains enigmatic v/ithout that, for in actual 
fact philosophy has burdened itself all through modern times with prob- 
lems and anxieties taken over from theology, so that the cultural advent 
of a philosophy purely philosophical is still to be waited for. In the cul- 
tural life of the Middle Ages philosophy was subservient to theology or 
rather wrapped up in it; in that of modern times it was but secularized 
theology. Thus . . . liberal education cannot complete its task without 
the knowledge of the specific realm and the concerns of theological 
wisdom. 14 

The teaching of the latter should, moreover, be given in a quite 
different way from that appropriate to religious seminaries and be 
adapted to the intellectual needs of laymen; its aim should not be 
to form a priest, a minister, or a rabbi, but to enlighten students of 
secular matters about the great doctrines and perspectives of theolog- 
ical wisdom. Such teaching would not be concerned with the detailed 
apparatus of historical authorities, but it would rather lay stress on 
the intrinsic rational consistency of doctrines and the basic insights 
on which they depend. It would be free from any preoccupation 
with merely technical questions or dead quarrels and closely con- 
nected with the problems of contemporary science and culture. Stu- 
dies in comparative religion would be included in it. 

As far as practical application is concerned, it presents no dif- 
ficulties for denominational colleges. 15 With regard to nondenomina- 
tional colleges, the practical solution, here again, would depend on 
the recognition of the pluralist principle in such matters. "Theologi- 
cal teaching would be given, according to the diversity of creeds, 
by professors belonging to the main religious denominations, each 
one addressing the students of his own denomination. And of course, 
those students who nurture a bias against theology would be re- 

14. Education at the Crossroads, op. cit., pp. 73-74. 

15. Cf. Gerald B. Phelan's indisputable statement on "Theology in the Cur- 
riculum of Catholic Colleges and Universities," in Man and Secularism, pp. 
128-40. New York: National Catholic Alumni Association, 1940. 


leased from attending these courses and allowed to remain incom- 
plete in wisdom at their own pleasure." 16 


A last observation must be made. Given the present situation of 
culture, the primary service that religion may receive from the 
school is that the school should restore in students the integrity of 
reason, of natural reason. As long as the teaching as a whole, in 
the high school as in the college, is permeated with a general phi- 
losophy which relies only on sense experience and facts and figures, 
disintegrates reason and denies its proper perceptive power and the 
most valuable certainties of which the human intellect is capable 
and the first of which is the rational knowledge of God's existence; 
as long as chaotic information is cultivated in the place of integrated 
knowledge and spiritual unity, the very soil and natural background 
on which religious convictions may thrive in youth will remain 
rough and barren. 

Now, is the work of reason itself capable of taking on its full 
natural dimensions without the superior balance created in common 
consciousness by religious faith and inspiration? Is philosophy cap- 
able, in actual existence, of reaching its own full rational integrity 
without the inner promptings and reinforcements it receives from 
theological knowledge? That's a major question, which I am only 
mentioning here. If we answer it in the affirmative, we have to say 
that human civilization, and its healing, depend on a complexity of 
causes which, as Aristotle put it, "cause one another." Causae ad 
invicem sum causae. 

In any case it would be nonsense to demand from teachers that 
they should be wiser than the general culture of their time and its 
great representatives, and that they should make up for the failure 
of the latter in doing the constructive work that mankind expected 
from them. 

This means that the most crucial problem with which our ed- 
ucational system is confronted is not a problem of education, but 
of civilization. 


I have mentioned here various writings books and articles to which 
I am indebted, either because they provided me with very valuable infor- 

16. Education at the Crossroads, op. cit. 9 p. 75. 

M A R I T A I N 89 

mation or inspiration or because I found in certain of them interesting 
and challenging views quite opposed to mine. These writings deal, as a 
rule, with matters which are discussed in this chapter as a whole, and it 
would be arbitrary to assign some of them to a particular section, some 
to another. That is why I have preferred to group them in a single bibli- 

ADLER, MORTIMER J. "Adult Education," Journal of Higher Education, XXII 
(February, 1952). 

. "Character and Intelligence," in A College Goes to School, Centennial 

Lectures. Holy Cross, Indiana: St. Mary's College, 1945. 

. "The Order of Learning," Moraga Quarterly, Autumn, 1941. St. Mary's 

College, California. 

. "Liberalism and Liberal Education," Educational Record, XX (July, 

1939), 422-36. 

. "Seminar on Education in a Modern Industrial Democracy." Phila- 
delphia, June 19 and 20, 1952. (Unpublished.) 

BARR, STRINGFELLOW, Report of the President. Annapolis, Maryland: St. John's 
College, July, 1942. 

BENEDICT, AGNES. Progress to Freedom. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1942. 

BOYLE, GEORGE. Father Tompkins of Novia Scotia. New York: P. J. Kenedy 
& Sons, 1953. 

BRAMELD, THEODORE. Patterns of Educational Philosophy. Yonkers-on-Hudson, 
New York: World Book Co., 1950 (revised). 

BRUBACHER, JOHN S. Modern Philosophies of Education. New York and 
London: McGraw-Hill Book Co.. 1950. 

CAIRNS, HUNTINGTON. "The Humanities and the Law," New York University 
Law Review. January, 1952. 

CHAMBERS, GORDON KEITH. The Republic and the Person. Chicago: Henry 
Regnery Co., 1952. 

CLARKE, FRED, et al. A Review of Educational Thought. London: University 
of London Institute of Education, 1942. 

COHEN, I. BERNARD. "The Education of the Public in Science," Impact of Sci- 
ence on Society, Summer, 1952. 

CONANT, JAMES BRYANT. Education and Liberty. Cambridge, Massachusetts: 
Harvard University Press, 1953. 

CUNNINGHAM, WILLIAM F. The Pivotal Problems of Education. New York: 
Macmillan Co., 1940. 

. General Education and the Liberal College. St. Louis, Missouri: B. Herder 

Book Co., 1953. 

DODDS, HAROLD W. "To Teach Wisdom." Address at the National Alumni 
Association Banquet, Chicago, April 25, 1952. Princeton Alumni Weekly, 
May 9, 1952. 

DURAND, SUZANNE MARIE. Pour ou Contre ^Education nouvelle. Paris: Descle'e 
De Brouwcr, 1951. 

ELKIN, DANIEL C. "A Case for the Study of the Humanities in the Making of 
a Doctor," Annals of Surgery, LXVII (September, 1952). 

General Education in a Free Society. Report of the Harvard Committee. 
Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1945. 

GILSON, ETIENNE. The Breakdown of Morals and Christian Education. Toronto: 
St. Michael's College, 1952. 

HUTCHINS, ROBERT M, Education for Freedom. Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Lou- 
isiana State University Press, 1943. 

. The Higher Learning in America. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale Uni- 
versity Press, 1936. 


HUTCHINS, ROBERT M. No Friendly Voice. Chicago: University of Chicago 
Press, 1936. 

MARROU, HENRI. Histoire de VEducation dans VAntiquite. Paris: Editions du 

Seuil, 1948. 
MEIKLEJOHN, ALEXANDER. Education between Two Worlds. New York and 

London: Harper & Bros., 1942. 
MONTESSORI, MARIA. The Montessori Method. New York: Frederick A. Stokes, 


. Pedagogical Anthropology. New York: Frederick A. Stokes, 1913. 

NEF, JOHN U. The Universities Look for Unity. New York: Pantheon Books, 


. "The University of Chicago and the World, 1929-1951," Review of Pol- 
itics, XLI (October, 1951). 
NEWMAN, JOHN HENRY. The Idea of a University Defijied and Illustrated. 

London, New York, and Bombay: Longmans, Green & Co., 1901. 
. On the Scope and Nature of University Education. New York: E. P. 

Dutton & Co., 1915. 
NICHOLSON, MARJORIE HOPE. Newton DemandstheMuse. Princeton, New Jersey: 

Princeton University Press, 1946. 
GATES, WHITNEY J. "The Humanities: A Philosophic Background," Chicago 

Conference on the Humanities, April, 1952, in Princeton Alumni Weekly, 

May 9, 1952. 
PIAGET, JEAN. The Child's Conception of the World. New York: Harcourt, 

Brace & Co., 1929. 
. Judgment and Reasoning in the Child. New York: Harcourt, Brace & 

Co., 1928. 

. The Origins of Intelligence in Children. New York: International Uni- 
versities Press, 1952. 
POLANYI, MICHAEL. Physical Science and Human Values. Princeton, New 

Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1946. 
TATE, ALLEN. "The Man of Letters in the Modern World," The Forlorn 

Demon. Chicago: Henry Regnery Co., 1953. 
TAYLOR, HUGH S. Religious Perspectives of College Teaching in the Physical 

Sciences. New Haven, Connecticut: Edward W. Hazen Foundation (n.d.). 
VINER, JACOB. A Modest Proposal for Some Stress on Scholarship in Graduate 

Training. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1953. 
WHITEHEAD, A. N. The Aims of Education and Other Essays. New York: 

Macmillan & Co., 1929. 

The following references have been added to the foregoing list at 
the suggestion of my consultant, Father Cunningham. 

DEFERRARI, ROY J. The Philosophy of Catholic Higher Education. Washington: 
Catholic University of America Press, 1948. 

. Theology, Philosophy and History as Integrating Disciplines. Wash- 
ington: Catholic University of America Press, 1953. 

FrrzpATRicK, EDWARD A. How To Educate Human Beings. Milwaukee: Bruce 
Publishing Co., 1953. 

McGucKEN, WILLIAM J. "The Philosophy of Catholic Education," Philosophies 
of Education, chap. vi. Forty-first Yearbook of the National Society for the 
Study of Education, Part I. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1042. 

REDDEN, JOHN D., and FRANCIS A. RYAN. A Catholic Philosophy of Education. 
Milwaukee: Bruce Publishing Co., 1942. 


A Liberal Christian Idealist Philosophy of Education" 


Basic Orientation 


I welcome this opportunity to participate in a symposium focused 
upon the educational implications of several contrasting philosophical 
points of view. The school, like all other basic institutions in our 
society, inevitably develops its own traditions and distinctive inertias. 
These, in turn, tend to generate in all who are concerned with the 
educational processin parents, alumni, and citizens at large no less 
than in school administrators, teachers, and pupils the complacent 
acceptance of "business as usual," that is, of currently accepted ed- 
ucational ideologies and practices. This general complacency does 
not, of course, preclude recurrent discontent and criticism of aca- 
demic procedures, both from within and from without the school 
system. Lively administrators are eager to improve the schools over 
which they preside; imaginative teachers are aware of personal and 
corporate failures and do what they can to improve their own 
teaching and to strengthen the school curriculum; interested parents 
and taxpayers contribute to the general ferment with criticisms and 
suggestions. Yet all such efforts tend to be superficial and peripheral, 
and the changes which ensue are usually trivial a tinkering with 
details. What is needed, now as always, but especially now in these 
times of crisis, is a radical re-examination and reassessment of our 
entire educational structure, its ultimate objectives, its fundamental 
presuppositions, its basic procedures all this in the existential con- 
text of our contemporary American society and of the total world 
situation and, no less urgently, in the still wider context of our best 
contemporary understanding of human nature and the universe to 
* Educational Consultant: Professor Donald Butler, Princeton University. 

9 1 


which we belong. Hence, the timeliness of this symposium, in which 
men of contrasting philosophical faiths attempt to restate their most 
ultimate beliefs and to spell out the bearing of these beliefs upon 
educational planning. 

This effort need not imply, I believe, a sweeping condemnation 
of all present educational theory and practice. Wholesale indictments 
like Scott Buchanan's in his recent Essay in Politics are, it seems to 
me, much too indiscriminate. He insists: 

The truth is that neither our society nor its academic servants know 
what should be taught to the young. . . . Less and less good teaching and 
learning are being done, and . . . the effects of bad teaching and learning 
are becoming evident. The general public has reasonable doubts that the 
academic institutions are providing the education that the community 
needs for its survival. . . . There is no confidence that the members of the 
[academic] body can teach and learn what they ought to know, or that 
there is any general will to find out what that might be. 1 

I, for one, am not persuaded that less and less good teaching and 
learning are being done, though I do agree that the effects of bad 
teaching and learning are becoming increasingly evident. I also agree 
that the general public tends to lack confidence in its school system, 
though it is questionable as to whether this lack of confidence is 
greater, or more justified, than it was in the past. The charge that 
neither society nor its academic servants know what should be 
taught and the doubt as to whether teachers really want to learn 
what they ought to know and teach are certainly too all-embracing 
to be fair, yet true enough to be profoundly disconcerting. What 
we are actually confronted with is, of course, a mixture of good and 
bad teaching, of the will to learn as well as unjustified complacency t 
of widespread conservatism along with a good deal of honest search 
and responsible experimentation. But even this more tempered ac- 
count of the contemporary scene in education indicates the urgent 
need for more basic thinking and planning, and this involves, of 
necessity, the resolute effort to get back to fundamentals with all 
the philosophical rigor we can muster. The value of this symposium 
will be proportionate to the contribution it can make in this direction. 

i. Scott Buchanan, Essay in Politics, pp. 182-85. New York: Philosophical 
Library, 1953. 



I also concur, in principle, with the editorial policy of inviting 
philosophers of different persuasions to articulate their basic beliefs 
and then consider the practical implications of these beliefs in ed- 
ucational theory and practice. For philosophy, today even more than 
in some other historical periods, is many-voiced; these voices do 
tend to constitute a pattern of types; and the types selected for rep- 
resentation in this volume do, in fact, exist in our society. This 
approach, however, raises two difficulties which I feel to be serious 
enough to merit brief mention. 

In the first place, different philosophical points of view, "schools," 
or positions are not mutually exclusive in all respects. On the con- 
trary, all, of necessity, share some common presuppositions, and each 
finds itself in considerable agreement with one or more of its pre- 
sumptive rivals. More significant, then, than any specifiable type or 
types of philosophy is the larger pattern of partly contrasting, partly 
overlapping, emphases and trends of contemporary belief on ultimate 
matters. Secondly, no philosopher worthy of the name is a pure 
exemplification of any school or type, the wholly appropriate re- 
cipient of any handy philosophical label. He may prefer, and merit, 
some one label in reference to any other presently available, but if 
he actually functions as a philosopher he is devoting his life to the 
development and articulation of his oiim more or less distinctive 
beliefs, even if these fall primarily, or even wholly, within the con- 
fines of a historical school or tradition. 

I mention these two difficulties because they are germane to my 
own contribution to this volume. I was initially asked to represent 
"idealism" and I was tempted to accept this assignment because, as 
labels go, I did seem to find this label less uncongenial than most of 
those here selected for representation. Yet, note my immediate 
quandary. First of all, I would have had to dissociate myself com- 
pletely from the "subjective" idealism exemplified in the earlier 
Berkeley. I believe in the "objective reality" of the physical world 
as completely as any "naturalist" or "realist." I am an "idealist," then, 
only in the sense that I am in general sympathy with the long tradi- 
tion of "objective" idealism, from Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle to 
Kant and the nineteenth- and twentieth-century "objective" idealists 


in England, Europe, and America. I say "in general sympathy" part- 
ly because these idealists themselves differ in more or less important 
ways from one another, and partly because I am unable to accept 
in toto the views of any one, or any group, of them. 

This, however, is only my first quarrel with the label of "idealist." 
For I am also a professing Christian in the Protestant tradition. This 
means that I believe in a God who, whatever else He may be, is a 
dynamic agent, a spiritual power of force, not to be equated with 
the most objective of values but rather to be conceived of as their 
ultimate ground and source. This belief is quite consistent with the 
characteristic idealist belief in "objective" values but quite incom- 
patible with the equally characteristic idealist insistence on the on- 
tological ultimacy and self-sufficiency of values and with their fre- 
quent disbelief in a dynamic God of righteousness and love. In 
short, I am not at all a typical "secular" objective idealist; I am, 
rather, a philosophically a-typical Christian idealist. 

These broad and loose distinctions call, of course, for much re- 
finement, and I shall have something to add regarding them presently. 
Meanwhile, as an "idealist" I would in honesty have had to record, 
however sketchily, my unhappiness over being put, by implication, 
in such sharp opposition to the characteristic emphases and insights 
which are commonly associated with other current philosophical 

The most ambiguous of these (unless one hews to a very rigid 
historical line) is "realism." It is, indeed, a misfortune that this label 
was ever used to designate a distinctive philosophical position. For 
it implies that "nonrealists" are less interested in, or responsive to, 
"reality" than are "realists," i.e., that, in some vicious way, they 
are escapists or dreamers or bunglers. This is a charge which all phi- 
losophers must necessarily repudiate. For if philosophy is not an 
honest search for reality, what is it? And what is a philosophical 
doctrine or position if it is not some man's best account of what 
reality really is? In this basic sense we are all "realists," however 
divergent and however inadequate our accounts of reality may be. 
I would also have been embarrassed, however, by the fact that I 
find myself in basic agreement with some of the fundamental tenets 
of what is today called "realism." Indeed, I must radically dissociate 
myself only from those "realists" who decline to ascribe ultimate 


reality to God and/or to basic values, though, here again, very 
much depends on how "God" and "values" are conceived of in 
themselves, in their mutual relation, and in their relation to the world 
of nature. 

I was no less unhappy over my presumptive "official" opposition 
to "existentialism" and "pragmatism." Once again, both labels are 
highly ambiguous, yet both are associated with basic insights and 
emphases which I would wish to accept wholeheartedly. No ex- 
istentialist is more convinced than I am that reality, to be known, 
must be vividly and poignantly encountered in experience by man 
as a willing, acting being. And no pragmatist is more persuaded than 
1 am that all our knowledge is human and therefore finite, that 
cognition is only part, though an essential part, of human life, and 
that all our thinking has consequenses and makes a difference, for 
better or for worse. In short, I heartily subscribe to most of the 
generic affirmations of contemporary existentialism and pragmatism; 
I quarrel only with some of their negations, e.g., that reality is, for 
us humans at least, reducible to experience, or that truth and good- 
ness are reducible without remainder to what "works." 

My quarrel with "organicism" and "semanticism" is only partial. 
1 too would wish to stress the "organic" structure of everything 
that is of man himself, the realities which he encounters, and all 
his apprehensions of them. I am also deeply impressed by the crucial 
importance of the semantic problem; I am convinced that we can 
hope to make progress in our philosophical quest only if we do full 
justice to the nature of language, the variety of its types and possible 
uses, and the difficulty of determining the meaning of meaning. Yet, 
as a philosopher in the great European tradition, I would not wish 
to label myself either an "organicist" or a "semanticist" because both 
these labels seem to me to point to beliefs and problems which, how- 
ever important, are, nonetheless, far less embracing than philosophy 
itself in all its sweep and depth. 

Least ambiguous, perhaps, is my relation to "logical positivism," 
on the one hand, "Marxism" and "scholasticism" on the other. I am 
indeed most sympathetic to the positivistic attempt to achieve maxi- 
mum clarity and precision, but I must reject completely its usual 
assumption, which I find very arbitrary, that our only experiences 
productive of reliable knowledge are sense experiences, that all value 


experiences are merely emotive, and that the traditional metaphysical 
problems are merely pseudoproblems, unsusceptible of fruitful ex- 
ploration. Here again, my quarrel is not with what is usefully as- 
serted and attempted by the positivists but with what is so dog- 
matically and unjustifiably denied. My basic criticisms of Marxism 
and scholasticism, in turn, focus partly upon their distinctive affirma- 
tions and partly upon the spirit in which these affirmations are made. 
I must repudiate, root and branch, the ultimate dogma of Marxism, 
though I gladly acknowledge the shrewdness of many of its more 
specific interpretations of history and criticisims of our social order. 
I must also completely dissociate myself from the characteristic 
authoritarianism of scholasticism while accepting many, though by 
no means all, of its central philosophical and theological doctrines. 

I have ventured upon this hasty listing of my own philosophical 
position vis-a-vis those of my fellow symposiasts merely to indicate, 
as briefly as possible, what I believe will prove to be the common 
predicament of all of us in this enterprise. The reader should be 
warned not to expect to find, in this volume, nine clear-cut, mutually 
exclusive, philosophical positions. He will actually find the necessari- 
ly sketchy reports of nine professional philosophers of more or less 
contrasting persuasions. The "texture" of the volume will be deter- 
mined in large measure by our unique approaches to the problems 
to which we have addressed ourselves and also by the extent to 
which we succeed in exemplifying, in our own individual ways, 
older and more recent types of philosophical inquiry and belief. But 
the chief contribution of this yearbook to the educational problems 
of our times will, I suspect, derive from our conjoint articulation 
of larger emphases and tendencies which cut across these types of 
philosophical position or schools of thought emphases and tenden- 
cies whose educational implications are quite certainly of great 


Before I proceed to list my basic philosophical presuppositions in 
some detail, let me attempt, in very general terms, to place myself, 
as it were, in the modern scene and thus explain the complicated 
label "Liberal Christian Idealist" which, with the committee's ap- 
proval, I have finally selected for myself as a contributor to this 


volume. The tide is, I am well aware, a very awkward one, but no 
briefer title would be at all accurate in the present context. Each of 
the three terms signifies what I must regard as of crucial importance 
in my own thinking and pattern of beliefs. 

I am a "liberal" in at least two complementary respects in my 
radical opposition to all authoritarianisms, secular and religious, and 
in my faith in man's indefinite capacity for progress. I am an "ide- 
alist" in my belief in the reality, the discoverability, and the impor- 
tance to man of objective values of truth, beauty, and goodness as 
pure essences, and of truths, beauties, and concrete instances of 
goodness as finite embodiments of these absolute values. Finally, I 
am a Christian in my wholehearted acceptance of Christian theism 
and, in particular, of what I conceive to be the Biblical account of 
ultimate reality, human nature, and human destiny. 

Each of these terms could, of course, be so defined as to become 
inconsistent with one or both of the other two. Liberalism is some- 
times identified with a dogmatic and doctrinaire radicalism which 
is completely authoritarian and which quickly becomes reactionary. 
(Witness Russia!) The liberalism I profess is the very opposite of 
such radicalism. Philosophical idealism has, as I have already said, 
usually been interpreted in a predominantly secular context, and the 
values whose objectivity has been defended have been conceived of 
as wholly autonomous and ontologically self-sufficient. I would wish 
to claim for them a restricted autonomy, but I would ground them 
ultimately in that dynamic Being who is worshipped as God in the 
Christian faith. Christianity, both Catholic and Protestant, tends 
powerfully toward an authoritarian orthodoxy. My own religious 
beliefs are, in fact, fairly orthodox, but I would wish to hold them 
with complete intellectual humility (along with great moral assur- 
ance), impressed as I am by the fallibility of all men, all human 
institutions, and all human knowledge. I am thus a liberal, not an 
authoritarian, Christian. (I am, therefore, damned as a heretic both 
by Catholics and by Fundamentalist Protestants.) I am a Christian 
who believes profoundly in the integrity and value of man's multiple 
searches, secular as well as religious, for truth, beauty, and goodness. 
(I am, therefore, viewed with suspicion as an eclectic, both by simon 
pure secular idealists and by Christians who have lost faith in man's 
essential goodness.) In short, I am a Christian humanist in my belief 


in man's essential goodness and his inescapable sinfulness, his inevi- 
table failure without God and his moral obligation to make his ulti- 
piate beliefs as reasonable and well informed as possible. 

My position can also be described as mediating between two ex- 
tremesbetween religious and philosophical authoritarianism, on the 
one hand, and nihilistic skepticism, both secular and religious, on the 
other. With the authoritarians I believe in God, in His Self-revelation 
to men, and in objective values; but, in opposition to them, I re- 
pudiate all claims to infallible knowledge of God, or of His revela- 
tion, or of values. I am convinced (but not intellectually "certain") 
that we can know these absolutes only partially and inadequately. 
Hence the intolerable arrogance of all dogmatism, if all human 
knowledge is, in fact, finite and relative. Here I come close to the 
skeptics, yet I differ from them profoundly when their skepticism 
is absolute (there is no God and there are no objective values to 
know; or, alternatively, even if God and /or values are real, they are 
wholly unknowable by men). Such radical skepticism seems to me 
to be completely self-contradictory and therefore suicidal. When 
Gorgias the Sophist declared, "There is nothing, and even if there 
were something we could not know it, and even if we could know 
it we could not communicate it to others," he was telling his dis- 
ciples (i.e., communicating) what he believed he knew about the 
"state of affairs" in which we find ourselves (i.e., what is); in short, 
he contradicted himself three times in a single sentence. This is what 
nihilistic relativists seem to me to be doing all the time in their ex- 
pression of preferences in terms of better and worse (while denying 
that good and bad have any objective meaning) and in their ex- 
pressions of ultimate belief when their complete relativism excludes 
the possibility of any ultimate. In contrast to them I am what might, 
I suppose, be called a "credal relativist," that is, one who believes 
in God and objective values and in man's ability to know both in 
some degree but never absolutely only finitely, from some historical 
and cultural and personal perspective that necessarily distorts what 
it reveals. 

This very general description of "where I live" may become more 
intelligible as I proceed now to spell out some of my major phil- 
osophical presuppositions. 



I must now attempt to state, as clearly and simply as possible, my 
own basic philosophical presuppositions, some of which I have al- 
ready alluded to in my attempt to relate my position to those ex- 
emplified by my colleagues in this symposium. 

1. My -first presupposition, or basic assumption, is that man finds 
himself in a complex environment which he can in some measure 
know and to which he can more or less successfully adapt himself. 
This assumption falls halfway between radical skepticism, on the one 
hand, and all forms of absolutism or authoritarianism on the other. 
I believe that man can know something, but not everything; that he 
can know many things with increasing clarity and assurance, but 
that he can never, because he is incorrigibly finite, know anything 
with complete certainty and finality. "Now," to paraphrase St. Paul, 
"we do see, but only darkly," i.e., partially. I also believe that knowl- 
edge makes a difference, both practically, in our attempts to "con- 
trol" reality, and normatively, in our attempts to live the good life 
and to be what we should be and act as we should act. Our knowl- 
edge may not, indeed, suffice to enable us to do what we want to 
do and be what we ought to be; but, surely, the more knowledge 
we have, the better provided that such knowledge is real knowledge, 
so far as it goes, and provided that we use it wisely. I thus assume 
the possibility, and the value, of knoiring ourselves and our total 
environment and of thus relating ourselves to it. 

2. My second presupposition, stated in abstract, technical terms, 
is that ontology (the study of reality or being), epistemology (the 
study of knowledge and its criteria), and axiology (the study of 
values and evaluation) are complementary to one another and must 
be pursued in closest relation to one another. We cannot say any- 
thing about reality save in so far as we can know it; every ontology 
necessarily implies an epistemology. But, reversely, knowledge is, by 
definition, knowledge of reality of something that is, in some sense 
and to at least some degree, real; every epistemology necessarily 
implies a knowable reality and therefore, at least implicitly, an 
ontology. Finally, since man is essentially a normative being, so 
constituted as to evaluate, explicitly or implicitly, everything he 
encounters and everything he thinks and does, his knowledge of 


reality and the reality he encounters are inescapably permeated, 
through and through, with significance for him. He never evaluates 
in the abstract but only in the context of his real (or imagined) 
encounters with, and apprehensions of, the "world' in which he lives 
and^to which he belongs; and he never encounters anything, and 
never thinks or acts, without these encounters, thoughts, and actions 
having in fact some significance for him. In short, I assume man's 
essential dependence upon, and continual interplay with, his complex 
total environment, and the profound significance of this dependence 
and this interplay for his entire life and destiny. 

My next three presuppositions spell out, somewhat more fully, the 
ontological, epistemological, and axiological aspects of the two pre- 
suppositions just stated. 

3. My third presupposition concerns the nature, limits, and criteria 
of human knowledge. 

a) All our knowledge of reality is, 1 believe, based, directly or indirectly, 
upon encountering it in experience. Kant was right in principle when 
he insisted that "concepts without percepts are empty." We can never 
spin knowledge out of our heads. We always need primary "data," 
that is, primary encounters with that which has a character of its own. 

b) Kant was wrong, however, in believing that the only data capable of 
yielding valid empirical knowledge are sense data, and that man's only 
cognitively useful experiences are his sense experiences. (I am here 
taking Kant at his literal word and am ignoring his actual acceptance 
of moral insight as valid and reliable, because, in his writings, he so 
often distinguishes "knowledge" from "moral faith.") The great mis- 
take of the positivists has been, I believe, to follow Kant's false lead 
on this point and to equate cognitively fruitful experience with sensory 
experience. Actually, as I see it, pure sensory experience is not only 
an abstraction, since it always occurs in a far richer and more varied 
experiential context; the sensory factors in experience are forever 
pointing beyond themselves and are thus mediating, nonsensory facets 
or dimensions of reality. Granted that we would not know each other 
as persons without sensory data what we discover about one another's 
real nature far outruns this sensory evidence and is not itself sensory 
in character. Similarly, a blind man cannot see a picture and cannot, 
therefore, enjoy its beauty but to a true lover of art a picture is far 
more than a mere pattern of lines and colors. 

I would insist, therefore, that we should accept all human experi- 
ences as potentially revelatory, Le., as encounters with some facet or 
aspect of the real. I deplore all a priori prejudicial exclusions of this 


or that type of experience as "of course" noncognirive or as cogni- 
rively useless by definition. 

c) Primary experience alone, however, can never suffice either to give us 
knowledge or to validate our alleged insights into the real. Here again 
Kant was right in principle in insisting that "percepts without con- 
cepts," i.e., wholly uninterpreted data, are "blind." This is true, I 
believe, of all data, sensory and nonsensory alike; they all call for 
interpretation. Indeed, human knowledge is our more or less adequate 
interpretation of such data. I must, therefore, reject as invalid every 
form of intuitionism which conceives of an "intuition" as an imme- 
diate self -validating insight wholly innocent of interpretation, though 
I would accept, and indeed stress, the actual occurrence, and the very 
great possible significance, of intuitions defined as moments of un- 
usually intense awareness in which much previous experience and re- 
flection are brought to unusually clear and poignant focus. 

d) I follow Kant once again in conceiving of the entire cognitive process 
as a progressively more and more adequate reconstruction of reality 
as the latter presents itself to us in the greatest variety of primary en- 
counters. I am, therefore, neither a naive realist, who believes that we 
know reality as it really is by simply encountering it, nor a skeptical 
phenomenalist, who believes that we never do encounter reality itself 
and that all we can actually know are our own subjectively con- 
ditioned constructs. The middle position which I would defend asserts 
our actual encounter with reality itself and our ability to reconstruct 
its structure and texture more or less adequately, yet always within 
the limits of our contingent human capacities and finite limitations. 
I am, in this sense, a hopeful and confident "critical realist." 

e) No theory of knowledge is worthy of serious consideration which fails 
to offer some intelligible and useful criterion of knowledge. Mine is, 
in essence, Kant's dual criterion of "correspondence" and "coherence" 
(save that I would judge it to be applicable to all types of human in- 
sights, whereas he sought to restrict it to our everyday and our scien- 
tific knowledge, via sense experience, of the world of nature). "Corre- 
spondence" here signifies conformity to all available and relevant data; 
"coherence" signifies the internal consistency of our individual judg- 
ments or of our closely related clusters of judgments and, even more 
importantly, the mutual consistency of judgments issuing from differ- 
ent experiences or types of experience. In short, we accept those judg- 
ments about (or interpretations of) reality as "true" in proportion 
(a) as they are based on trustworthy evidence or data and "do justice" 
to them, and (b) as they are consistent with other judgments rooted 
in the same or similar data or in data of more or less different basic 


Late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century objective idealism 


would tend to substitute the single criterion of "coherence" (more 
inclusively defined to include what I have just distinguished as "corre- 
spondence" and "coherence") for my two complementary criteria. 
My deviation from objective idealism at this point, however, is largely 
semantic and, therefore, relatively unimportant. 

These five planks of my epistemological platform constitute, in 
conjunction, my third major philosophical presupposition. I believe 
that all human knowledge is the product of marts more or less suc- 
cessful attempts to understand reality by interpreting his major ge- 
neric experiences in their relation to one another. 

4. My fourth presupposition concerns the nature of reality and 
the criterion of "objectivity." 

a) To say that man can acquire knowledge of reality by judicious in- 
terpretation of data is to accept such data as clues to reality, that is, 
to assume that reality does make itself available to us through our pri- 
mary experiences. Indeed, the only reality which can concern us is 
that which, in some sense and to some degree, does provide us clues 
to its actuality and its nature. There may, indeed, be vast reaches of 
reality of which we men can know nothing, and these reaches may 
in fact powerfully affect our lives; but, even if this is the case, it is 
idle to speculate about them because they are, by definition, unen- 
counterable and unknowable. Here I agree with the pragmatists and 
the positivists that human concern with the actually unknowable is a 
waste of time. As will appear presently, however, I believe that we 
can know far more about reality than they believe we can. 

b) What, then, do we mean by "knowable reality"? We mean that which 
we encounter in primary experience as having a character of its own, 
as impinging upon us cocrcively or, in other words, as the source of 
our experientially acquired data. Reality should not be equated with 
these data; it is that which underlies them and forces them, in a va- 
riety of ways, upon our attention. 

"Objective" reality, however, is not merely coercive; it is orderly 
as well. This assertion is partly verified and verifiable, partly an act 
of faith. Constituted as we are, we can maintain our sanity only in an 
orderly universe; sheer chaos would quickly rob us of all our ration- 
ality. We must therefore assume, as an ultimate act of faith, that 
reality possesses some kind, or many kinds, of order and regularity. 
All human efforts to know reality have been based on this ultimate 
assumption. What is significant is that this assumption has been justi- 
fied empirically again and again in every area of human search. The 
hallmark of the "objectively real" is, therefore, coercive order. 

c) To say that our knowledge of reality is reconstructive, in turn, is to 


say that its coercive order cannot be immediately apprehended, by 
direct inspection, but must be progressively explored and plotted. It 
follows also that we never dare assume that we human mortals have 
ever explored and apprehended our objective world exhaustively. 
Here the ancient distinction between appearance and reality becomes 
crucial. We know, and can know, objective reality only as it appears 
to us. All our knowledge of the real is, first of all, necessarily anthro- 
pomorphic in that all we can know of the real is what we men, with 
our limited, finite, cognitive capacities, can know. This is as true of 
our scientific knowledge of nature as of our moral insights and our 
knowledge of God. But, secondly, as we probe deeper and deeper 
into reality and as our reconstructions of it progressively improve, 
we pass, as it were, from very distorted appearances of the real to 
more and more accurate and reliable appearances. "Appearance," in 
short, is essentially a function not of reality itself but of our knowl- 
edge of it; the more adequate our knowledge, in any area of inquiry, 
the more closely, we must assume, does its "appearance" resemble its 
actual nature sub specie aeternitatis. 

My fourth presupposition, then, is that "objective reality" is what 
confronts us with a coercive and orderly character of its own: It is 
that 'which we seek to know and which we must know in order to 
live and live well. 

5. My fifth and final basic presupposition relates to our value 
experiences, our evaluations, and the correlative value dimensions of 

a) I start with the major assumption that man is essentially a purposive 
being, with the capacity to approve or disapprove of everything that 
he encounters and does and is. Everything, therefore, is of actual or 
potential subjective significance (value or disvalue) to him. This as- 
sumption can also be stated objectively, in ontological terms. Reality 
makes its multiple impacts upon man for better and worse; his life and 
destiny are profoundly and inescapably affected by the complex re- 
ality which confronts him and of which he is a part. All his evalu- 
ations, therefore, whether they be explicit or implicit, affirmative or 
negative, right or wrong, are of great importance to him, because the 
better he evaluates the reality which he encounters, the better equipped 
he is to live a good life and realize his human destiny. To ignore the 
role of evaluation or to reduce it to a status of unimportance is tragic 

b) The value dimensions of reality are, therefore, just as "objective" as 
are its "factual" or nonvalue dimensions. They are objective in the 
same sense in which causality is objective; they present themselves to us 


with an orderly and coercive character of their own which we cannot 
ignore or misconstrue with impunity any more than we can ignore 
or misconstrue with impunity the complex pattern of spariotemporal 
causality. Only on this assumption, in turn, can we take seriously man's 
age-old efforts to evaluate more validly and wisely. Significant evalu- 
ation is impossible if such evaluation has no appropriate referendum. 
If nothing is in fact more or less valuable, then no evaluation can be 
superior to any other; and if this is the case, then all man's purposive 
activities are, in the last analysis, mere "sound and fury, signifying 

The distinction between appearance and reality is as valid, and as use- 
ful, in the realm of values as in the realm of fact. The only values that 
can concern us as men are the values which do, in fact, make a diif er- 
ence in our lives and which we can, in principle, progressively explore 
and apprehend. These values are what they are. But we dare not as- 
sume that our knowledge of them is ever wholly adequate or final. 
We can know them only as they appear to us in our value experi- 
ences and as we reconstruct them as best we can. Progress in evalu- 
ation is, therefore, advance from more distorted to less distorted 
appearances of them. 

This distinction between appearance and reality has a second im- 
portant relevance to values. We actually encounter or experience 
values, whether moral, aesthetic, or religious, only in concrete actuali- 
zationin actual persons and human acts, in actual works of art, in 
actual religious experiences and manifestations of the holy. As I have 
just said, our apprehensions and evaluations of these actualizations of 
value are themselves never wholly adequate; all we can hope for are 
more and more penetrating apprehensions and increasingly valid as- 
sessments of such embodied values. Even here we merely progress 
from less adequate to more adequate appearances. But and this is the 
point I would now emphasize we dare not assume that any embodi- 
ment of a value is itself wholly adequate to the value which is em- 
bodied. 2 We must believe that the most just man falls short of abso- 
lute justice, that the most perfect work of art fails to incorporate all 
beauty, that essential holiness transcends any and all of its finite his- 
torical manifestations. Serious evaluation, in short, must presuppose 
value dimensions in reality itself which are only partially bodied forth 
in the world as we encounter it. Hence the useful distinction between 
absolute values as they are in their real essence, and their more or less 
adequate concrete appearances in time, i.e., embodied and experienced 

2. This is true, at least in one important sense, even of the Incarnation. Jesus 
as the Christ is believed to be the authentic and unique embodiment or revela- 
tion of God Himself in this sense, 'Very God of very God" but still not 
wholly identifiable with "God the Father. 


d) The validity or truth of our evaluations can be determined, finally, 
only in the way in which the validity or truth of our nonevaluative 
or factual judgments are determined, namely, by using the conjoint 
criteria of "correspondence" and "coherence." The criterion of "corre- 
spondence" requires us to check all our evaluations against our best, 
i.e., our most reliable and illuminating value experiences; our evalu- 
ations will be meaningful and valid only in proportion as they "do 
justice" to whatever primary-value data are available to us. But our 
evaluations, like our factual judgments, are never trustworthy, or even 
meaningful, in isolation, because the values which we seek to appre- 
hend and assess are themselves never isolated or unrelated. We must, 
therefore, use also the criterion of "coherence," trying our best to 
make our several evaluations, in the same and in different areas of 
value, as mutually consistent or coherent as possible. 

My final major presupposition, therefore, is axiological, i.e., con- 
cerned with values and their evaluation. It is that Values are em- 
bedded in reality itself; that these Values (here conveniently capi- 
talized to distinguish them from their -finite embodiments) achieve 
more or less adequate, but never wholly adequate, concrete mani- 
festation; that man, as a purposive being, seeks to apprehend these 
Values, abstractly as ideals or standards, and concretely in their 
several embodiments; and that man's life is good in proportion as 
his search for the value dimensions of reality is successful and as his 
resultant responses to them are adequate or proper. 


Before preceding, I should say a word about my conception of 
the general nature of all basic philosophical presuppositions, includ- 
ing my own._Some philosophers have tried to proceed wholly 
deductively, from basic major premises which they accepted un- 
critically, either as "certain" (issuing from immediate "intuition," 
or from some supernatural authority, or as "self-evident") or else 
as arbitrary postulates. Others have attempted to jproceed in a purely 
inductive manner without any basicfassurnptions or presuppositions. 
For reasons which I cannot here explore, both of these approaches 
are, I believe, doomed to failure. In any case, my own approach 
seeks to mediate between these two jinranhpure extremes. Human 
consciousness presumably develops, in each indffviiSuaX out of a 
relatively inchoate and atomistic tvoe of experience, in infancy, 


through a gradual specification of experience and a gradual de- 
velopment of interlocking, interpretative concepts and judgments, 
to whatever maturity of experience and reflection the individual 
is capable of. Similarly, philosophy, as an on-going venture, never 
starts from scratch, either with pure experience or pure theory. It 
starts, in the case of each philosopher, with whatever experiential 
data and.whatei^erjb^i^retation of these data are initially available 
and congenial t<^ him. The philosopher then proceeds, with the 
aid of other philosophers, past and present, to make his implicit 
major premises more explicit, to clarify and extend his experiential 
data, and to make his theoretical interpretations^ them more power- 
ful and adequate. In the process, he keeps re-examining his major 
premises and, in the light of all his continuing experience and 
reflection, to revise them as radically as his estimate of the total 
situation seems to warrant. 

Whether or not this account of the philosophical enterprise 
recommends itself to my philosophical colleagues, it is at least a 
summary description of my own process of philosophy. It is im- 
portant that such an account be given because it indicates, at least 
briefly, the way in which I have arrived at niy basic presuppositions 
and, more importantly, the way in which I regard them and use 
them. They express my most basic convictions regarding the uni- 
verse in which we live and our relation to it. They also express 
the basic principles underlying my own continuing philosophical 
inquiry. I make no claim that they are certain, or final, or wholly 
adequate; indeed, I am quite convinced that they con be none of 
these things. All I can say for them, on my own authority, is that I 
have lived with them for years, that I have modified them from time 
to time when such modification seemed indicated, and that they now 
seem to me to be far more satisfactory than any alternative variants 
that I know of. Far more significant, for the reader, is the fact that 
these are the presuppositions of an old and honorable tradition and 
that they still make "more sense" to many able and sincere people 
than their opposites. (It goes without saying that I have been able 
to formulate them here only in a highly condensed and summary 
fashion each of them permits of, and calls for, extensive elaboration 
and defense.) 

It is also apparent that I have refrained entirely from stating my 


own substantive conclusions in the major areas of human inquiry, 
that is, my own specific convictions regarding the world of nature, 
human nature, the nature of society and Jts basic institutions, the 
nature of art and beauty, and the nature of that ultimate luminous 
mystery which men call God. In short, I have not here attempted 
to formulate my own positive philosophy at all: I have merely tried 
to articulate the basic presuppositions of my total philosophical en- 
deavor, the framework, as it were, within which I do my philosophi- 
cal thinking and arrive at my own basic conclusions. This framework 
will, however, suffice to dictate, or at least to indicate, some of the 
basic aims and values of education. 

Basic Aims and Values of Education 

Before summarizing these aims and values I should like to say a 
word about the applicability of what follows to the various levels 
of education. 

Since my own teaching experience has been entirely at the col- 
lege and graduate levels of instruction, it is natural that my mind 
should be primarily oriented to educational problems as they arise 
at these advanced levels. Much of what I have to say, moreover, 
would seem to become progressively more and more practicable the 
farther up the educational ladder one goes. In these two respects I 
will be addressing myself primarily to mature scholars and to col- 
lege and university teachers, and I shall be discussing aims and 
policies which can be seen to come into their own most fully only 
at the more advanced levels. 

On the other hand, any really basic philosophy of education is, 
by definition, applicable to all education, to the most elementary no 
less than to the most advanced. I am hopeful that my basic edu- 
cational objectives and policies satisfy this criterion, even though, for 
lack of space, I am unable to indicate explicitly how this is the 
case. Let me give two concrete illustrations in anticipation of what 
immediately follows. 

I plead for the "liberal" or "open-door" policy, that is, for the 
students' maximum freedom of choice. This policy is a necessary 
corollary of my "liberalism" and mjr hatred of all authoritarianisms. 
It is most applicable, explicitly, at the higher levels where the student 
does not have to be protected by any form of censorship and where 


he is, at least theoretically, mature enough to stand entirely on 
his own feet and assume the responsibility of his own decisions. Now 
the farther down the educational ladder we go, the less maturity 
we find; the young must, of course, be protected as older students 
no longer need to be they cannot be given many of the choices to 
which they will later be morally entitled. This means that the 
teacher of the young must be judicious in how and to what extent 
the "open-door" policy is applied; its applicability may well have 
to \)$Jrnplicit more often than explicit. But the elementary teacher's 
attitude can, with due regard to the pupil's youth, be as tolerant, 
liberal, and undogmatic as the attitude of the advanced scholar or 
college teacher. The grade-school teacher can and should be as 
completely committed to the basic principles of liberal education as 
anyone else; she must simply be sensible in applying them intelli- 
gently and realistically to very young children. 

I also plead for certain "skills" and "disciplines" and, no less, for 
certain basic attitudes. Neither these skills and disciplines nor these 
attitudes can be fully developed in early youth; they ripen as the 
child grows up, and they can and should continue to improve 
throughout a person's life time. JJjjt the foundation for all this de- 
yelopmsat-#&?,be laid in early youth. Ivfuch of it is, in fact, laid 
in the home before kindergarten, and more is deeply ingrained dur- 
ing the first formative years of schooling. T^he parents and the 
elementary-school teacher are th^s crucial factors in the total edu- 
cational process. The educational edifices we later try to build 
can be only as strong and tall as their foundations permit. 

It would take a thick volume to spell out in detail the applica- 
tion of each of my basic educational aims, values, and principles, to 
each school level. I must leave it to the reader to apply them for 
himself, always assuming, of course, that they seem to him to be 
essentially sound and basically applicable to the total educational 

A major implication of my philosophical presuppositions might 
be entitled the "^ppn^Hq^ r >j } '^ w ^t\^r\^\ po]jry If it is important 
for man to explore his total environment as extensively and pro- 
foundly as possible, it follows that education should provide maxi- 


mum opportunity and encouragement for such exploration. No 
doors to reality should be closed by a priori fiat or social prejudice; 
no -*yp?J of .experience should be initially suspect or prematurely 
judged to be nonrevelatpry ; ao specificjhypotheses or beliefs should 
be initially condemned. Every student should, so far as possible, 
be. encouraged to cxplorejJl^ayaiiaMe points of yiewvall jpf man's 
generic experiences, all serious accounts of nature, man, and God, 
as jj2^athetically, eagerly, and open-mindedly as possible. 
Martin Buber says, 

Man's threefold living relation is, first, his relation to the world and to 
things, second, his relation to menboth to individuals and to the many- 
third, his relation to cne mystery of being which is dimly apparent 
through all this but infinitely transcends it which the philosopher calls 
the Absolute and the believer calls God, and which cannot in fact be elimi- 
nated from the situation even by a man who rejects both designations. 3 

_ I quote this statement partly because it clearly indicates what I 
believe to be the three great areas of human concern and explora- 
jtion, partly because the third area provides a particularly good test 
of genuine open-mindeclness since it is, in our society, an area of 

O i ft. * < *i IIUL, -urai ., , r+tf.,, ,,, J - 

sharp controversy. The educational policy of the "open door" 
would dictate adequate provision and incentive for the most serious 
exploration of this area, without official, institutional prejudice, either 
in favor of or against affirmative religious faith. All other controver- 
sial areas should, of course, be explored with equal freedom and 

But how is this possible since, in fact, no human being who takes 
himself and his convictions seriously can, as an individual, refrain 
from taking sides on such momentous issues? The answer, as re- 
gards all genuinely liberal schools and colleges, both independent 
and tax-supported, is clear. (I am here ignoring the special case of 
explicitly sectarian educational institutions.) The school's official 
position should, so far as possible, be conscientiously neutral as 
regards all such highly controversial issues; but its official policy 
should be to select, train, and support teachers who are people of 
real stature and real conviction. These teachers should be not only 

3. Martin Buber, Between Man and Man, p. 177, quoted by Nathan A. Scott, 
Jr., in his excellent Rehearsals of Discomposure, p. 248. New York: King's 
Crown Press, 1952. 


permitted, but encouraged, to state, honestly and forcefully, their 
own deepest convictions on these matters in all relevant contexts, 
provided only that they make it absolutely clear to their students, 
at all the educational levels, that these are merely their informed con- 
victions (and never the truth) and that each student must, as a 
responsible moral agent, develop his own convictions and live by 
them at his own risk. In short, the school's ideal objective should 
be the fostering of the greatest possible reflective commitment real 
conviction coupled with real humility and tolerance on the part of 
all concerned. The more resolutely the school espouses this ideal, 
and the better its teachers exemplify it, the more effectively will its 
students be helped to develop themselves into responsible, humane 

But, it might be asked: Can an academic institution be officially 
neutral on important, controversial issues? Indeed, should it strive 
for such neutrality; is it not, like an individual person, morally 
obligated to take sides? And, finally, need such official commitment 
involve intolerance and censorship? My own answer to these ques- 
tions would be as follows: It may indeed be impossible for any 
school to be wholly neutral on these matters. It should, however, be 
as neutral as possible, not in a spirit of indifference, but in ultimate 
loyalty to the untrammeled search for truth. This neutrality should 
not, however, be construed negatively for example, as not provid- 
ing opportunity for religious instruction and religious worship. It 
should be construed, rather, as affirmative support for competing 
positions, e.g., for informed, religious belief and also for the most 
cogent defense of agnosticism and atheism. Such a policy would, I 
believe, be most likely to generate official tolerance for conflicting 
points of view and to give the student maximum freedom of choice 
and maximum incentive to responsible maturity. 

I would add, however, that one of the glories of a free society 
is its ability to harbor different types of educational institutions- 
large and small, public and private, sectarian and nonsectarian. Our 
total educational process and our total venture in scholarly inquiry 
are bound to benefit from this diversity provided that all these in- 
stitutions exhibit intellectual integrity and genuine respect for dif- 
ferent expressions of such integrity. I do not see how a free society 
like ours can permit an academic institution to continue if it is 


demonstrably suppressing or distorting such truth as is available to 
men, that is, if it has abandoned the tasks of education and scholarly 
research and has become merely a vehicle for propaganda. But, on 
the other hand, I do not see how our society can preserve its 
cherished freedom unless it allows different educational institutions, 
like different individuals, to pursue the truth and to formulate the 
principles of education in different ways. This social tolerance for 
deviant institutions is defensible not on the ground that all ap- 
proaches are equally good but on the ground that, since man is in- 
corrigibly finite and fallible, he dare not a priori rule out any in- 
tellectual or educational venture which men of ability, honesty, and 
humility wish to undertake in an experimental spirit. 


This educational goal is, of course, dictated by the Western spirit 
of liberalism and by any philosophy of education which seeks to 
articulate this spirit. I have refrained thus far from using the terms 
"liberalism" and "liberal" because their meaning has become so 
ambiguous. By "liberalism" I do not mean, on the one hand, any form 
of doctrinaire radicalism. ^Liberalism is essentially opposed to all 
dogmatisms, secular or religious, radical, middle-of-the-road, or con- 
servative. It stands, in sharp opposition to all types of coercive 
authoritarianism, for freedom, tolerance, and honest critical inquiry. 
But the "liberalism" I am here espousing is not, on the other hand, 
a wishy-washy tolerance of everything, even of intolerance. The 
only liberalism I would defend is one which is rooted in a profound 
respect for man as a responsible moral agent, and for all those basic 
rights and freedoms without which man cannot hope to develop a 
responsible maturity and without which society must inevitably 
lapse into either anarchy or tyranny. 


Liberalism, so conceived, has its own basic values which it must 
defend at all costs because they condition its vitality and, indeed, its 
very existence. The specific virtues which it must espouse and 
the vices which it must combat can usefully be defined in the con- 
text of a liberal educational policy. The three basic liberal virtues 
are (^ serious, sopccrn, 


(c) ^rofaundJimi^y^J^t three corresponding vices are fQvolpus 
or cynical indifference, lack of integrity, and arrogance. Teachers 

' ..*,., - . -. K ' ' '*!>' ' 'Wr -r fc., ,,,** i i ( i* 

should be hired only if they possess these three virtues, in addition to 
intellectual competence, and they should be fired either for in- 
competence or for exemplifying any one or more of these three 
vices. It should also be the prime concern of the school assiduously 
to foster these virtues and combat these vices in its students as well 
as to cultivate whatever intellectual and creative talents they may 

Please note that these virtues are not here arbitrarily selected and 
recommended; they are dictated by the basic presuppositions listed 
above. Mail cannot hope to respond appropriately to his environment 
unless he can discover its true nature, and he cannot apprehend it 
for what it is unless he addresses himself to it in a spirit of serious 
concern. But mere concern will not suffice; it can, in and of itself, 
all too easily induce wishful thinking. Hence the need for intellectual 
honesty and moral courage, the determination to learn the truth, 
however surprising or unwelcome, and to face it and live with it. 
Serious and honest concern, in turn, can very easily generate over- 
confidence in one's own beliefs and an arrogant condemnation of the 
equally honest and concerned beliefs of others. Here the only ulti- 
mate corrective is not the superficial and sentimental live-and-let- 
live tolerance of indifference but, rather, that genuine humility 
which reflects a profound realization of human finitude and the in- 
evitable inadequacy of man's greatest knowledge and virtue. Such 
humility will not only express itself in our dealings with our fellow- 
men but will also induce in us a natural piety toward nature, a re- 
ceptivity for the best that men have thought and done in our own 
and other cultures, and, finally, an "openness" to whatever mysteri- 
ous forces of holiness and love may be seeking ingress into our 
hearts and minds. 

It is also to be noted that these three liberal virtues are the 
essential conditions of a liberal society. Men cannot band themselves 
into a free, responsible community unless they feel the urgent need 
for voluntary co-operation and the desire to recognize and share in 
corporate responsibility. And they cannot hope to co-operate effec- 
tively with one another for their own and the common good save 
on the basis of widespread integrity. Such co-operative effort is, 


finally, bound to fail unless men persistently acknowledge their own 
finitude and unless they really respect the rights of others to seek 
truth and justice in their own way and to believe what their own 
insights and reflections impel them to believe. Concern, integrity, 
and humility provide the only possible basis for full and responsible 
social co-operation; they constitute the vital nerve of our democratic 

This need not, and should not, imply an idolatrous veneration for 
the democratic processes of free association and co-operation under 
law. For these processes are themselves merely the means though 
so far as we can see, much the best, and perhaps the only, means 
for the development of man's highest social potentialities and for 
steady progress toward the realization of man's proper destiny ,,JUi 
. truly liberal goal of education can never be defined merely in terms 
of a society, actualor ideal; we must resist the temptation to ab- 
solutize any form of social organization and to make education 
merely a means to the furtherance of a social goal. In the liberal 
perspective, education and democracy are both institutional means 
for the achievement of more ultimate human ends. What is here 
so significant is that they are clearly complementary means, each 
requiring the lively support of the other. Liberal education is im- 
possible in a thoroughly undemocratic society, and no society can 
hope to become or remain truly democratic without the help of 
liberal education. 

The "open door" policy in education, then, while maintaining 
official neutrality on all substantive controversial issues economic 
and political, artistic and technological, philosophical and theological 
must actively defend its own foundations; it must, to survive, safe- 
guard the very presuppositions of liberal inquiry and free, co-opera- 
tive association. The school should resist the temptation to take 
official sides in any of the areas of continuing research and experi- 
mentation, but it must take sides, officially, on the prime conditions 
of such experimentation and inquiry. It must proclaim and sustain 
the individual's duty and his right to think for himself, to speak 
freely, and to believe whatever his conscience dictates, and it must 
courageously combat all internal and external encroachments upon 
these basic freedoms. It must foster enlightened tolerance on every 
front and it must fight intolerance wherever it rears its ugly head. 



The school has one additional liberal obligation which is the 
affirmative counterpart of its official neutrality on controversial 
issues. This is to foster, in all appropriate ways, active inquiry into, 
and instruction in, all of man's major creative ventures. The school 
should not officially take sides on specific economic and political, 
artistic and theological issues, but it should find and train teachers 
who are competent to probe into these areas, both creatively and 
critically, to define and to debate the crucial issues in each area, to 
set ::: sharp relief man's boldest dreams and most hazardous convic- 
tions, and also to see to it that these are all duly subjected to respon- 
sible criticism. This can be done, up to a point, by an individual 
teacher who is himself both creative and critical, capable of active 
commitment, as a concerned agent, and also of objective criticism, 
as a dispassionate observer. Indeed, the genius of liberal inquiry and 
teaching is precisely this ability to engage in the dialectical process 
of acceptance and criticism, enjoyment and appraisal, belief and 
doubt. There are limits, however, beyond which it is unreasonable 
to expect any individual to be equally sympathetic to both sides of 
a controversy. Hence, the importance of having on each faculty 
teachers of more or less sharply conflicting beliefs not only on the 
great perennial puzzles of mankind but also on lesser controversial 
problems. Students should have the opportunity to hear from both 
the right and the left on social and political issues; they should be 
exposed to conflicting estimates of art in general and specific works 
of art; they should be introduced to religious faith and religious 
skepticism, to a variety of orthodoxies and heresies. And these alter- 
natives should be presented to them not as straw men but as vital 

It is essential that the student be presented with more than one set 
of beliefs in order that he may come to realize that men are in fact 
in profound disagreement on all these vital matters and in order that, 
in addition, he be given the privilege of free choice. The totalitarian 
ideal is monolithic; the totalitarian state presumes to know the truth 
and to inculcate it by indoctrination as the one and only orthodoxy. 
The liberal ideal is the diametric opposite; a liberal .society recognizes 
the inevitability^ and. the long-range value, of conflicting opinions, 
and dedicates itself to the task of teaching its members how to make 


their own responsbile decisions on all controversial issues, i.e., how 
to live and act as free, responsible, moral agents. It is the primary 
task of liberal education to introduce its students to this spirit of 
liberal inquiry, open controversy, and responsible individual deci- 
sion as early and as efficiently as possible. 

But the student should also be taught that controversy is not an 
end in itself but only the essential means to free individual decision 
and commitment. He should be helped, at an early age, to dis- 
tinguish clearly between the proper official neutrality of the school, 
as an institution, on controversial issues and the impropriety of at- 
tempting, as an individual, to be neutral in any of these areas. He 
should learn that man cannot live without taking sides, without de- 
cision and action, and that he cannot live well unless his decisions 
are enlightened, deeply felt, and carefully reflected on. Hence, the 
supreme importance of having teachers on every faculty who exem- 
plify, both in precept and practice, what it means to have entered 
deeply into this or that type of human experience with sympathetic 
insight and what it means to have emerged from such experience and 
reflection with deep ringing convictions. Above all, the student 
should be helped in every possible way to learn how to believe 
something with all his heart and still be tolerant of the equally firm 
beliefs of others who disagree with him. In short, he should acquire, 
as early and firmly as possible, the difficult art of genuinely reflec- 
tive commitment in every field of major human endeavor and be- 
lief. Without the capacity for such commitment he is doomed to 
sterility and frustration; without reflection and humility he cannot 
hope to escape bigotry and dogmatism. Wholehearted commitment 
and reflection are essential, from the liberal perspective, for the good 
life of responsible freedom. 

The Educational Process 

We can now proceed to spell out some of the chief implications 
for the actual educational process of my five basic philosophical pre- 
suppositions and of my resultant conception of the basic aims and 
values of education. 


First of all, it should be clear that the school is the only institution 
in our society whose primary function and responsibility are edu- 


cational. Other major institutions the state, the family, the church, 
and even "business" (taken in its most inclusive sense) do, of course, 
have important subsidiary educative functions, for better and for 
worse, but each of these other institutions has a quite different 
primary function. Thus, the state is designed to protect and to 
promote the public safety and welfare; the family, to provide for 
the procreation and nurture of the child and for the most intimate 
companionship between man and wife; the church, to promote the 
worship of Deity and to foster the spirituality of its members; busi- 
ness, to provide the community with its multiple economic neces- 
sities and physical comforts. In terms of a somewhat risky metaphor, 
the state, the family, the church, and business might be said to be, 
respectively, the, "sword and shield," the "heart," the "soul," and 
the "hands", qf our society. This division of labor leaves it to the 
school to function as the "mind" of the body politic. Granted the 
multiple interdependencies of these great institutions and the many 
ways in which their legitimate activities overlap, it still is true that 
our society can thrive only if each of these institutions performs its 
own primary function as well as possible and carefully refrains from 
arrogating to itself the chief functions of its sister institutions. The 
school must never be allowed to become merely an arm of govern- 
ment, however much support it may receive from public funds. It 
must never try to replace the family in the nurture of the young, 
however grave the failures of our family system. It must never pre- 
sume to function as a church, however much it can and should 
contribute to religious enlightenment and piety. And it should never 
conceive of itself merely as a business, even on a nonprofit basis, 
however considerable may be the funds and extensive the property 
which it is called upon to administer for educational purposes. In pro- 
portion as the school attempts to perform any of these vital func- 
tions of our other major institutions, it not only condemns itself to 
inefficiency and malpractice, in trying to do what it is not properly 
qualified to do, but it is also bound to neglect its own proper task, 
namely, the preservation, dissemination, and extension of man's 
knowledge of himself and his total environment, along with all the 
techniques of teaching and learning. 

This need not and should not imply that our major institutions 
should all be so highly specialized that each can merely perform 


one function in total indifference to other values and goals. On the 
contrary, the liberal ideal of the well-rounded man applies mutatis 
mutandis to the institutions of a liberal society. For example, each 
of our major institutions other than the school has its appropriate 
stake in man's search for truth and its appropriate responsibility for 
education. Government should be as enlightened as possible and 
should actively support education and research. The impact of the 
family is, for better or for worse, of crucial importance in the 
education of boys and girls in their most impressionable and forma- 
tive years. A church which is indifferent to truth and education 
quickly degenerates into a stronghold of superstition and bigotry. 
And how can business and industry hope to serve the public well 
without enlightenment and a respect for enlightenment? Never- 
theless, the school is the only institution whose primary responsibility 
is scholarship and education, the pursuit of knowledge, and the cul- 
tivation of the mind. 

Thus to stress knowledge and the development of the mind as 
the central concern of the educational process need not at all ne- 
cessitate a restrictive conception of either mind or knowledge. On 
the contrary, the truly liberal conception of mind is hostile to any 
narrow intellectualism. The term "mind" should here be taken to 
signify man's total cognitive equipment his senses, emotions, im- 
agination, and will, no less than his intellect or reasonand "knowl- 
edge" should include the whole range of human insights, apprecia- 
tions, appraisals, and decisions. It is with man as man, rich and com- 
plex in his capacities and conscious activities, that a truly liberal 
education is concerned. It takes him as he is, in all his concrete 
actuality and with all his undeveloped potentialities; it seeks to help 
him, at each educational level, more fully to realize his undeveloped 
capacities for mature knowledge, decision, and action; it tries to 
enable him to be himself at his own unique responsible best. 


The ideal matrix for the educational process, so conceived, is the 
school organized and functioning as a liberal community of older 
and younger searchers after truth. To describe the school as a "com- 
munity" is to emphasize the corporate, social character of educa- 
tion. Liberal education is nota.splitary but a co-operative and com- 


munal activity, from kindergarten to the highest level of technical 
research. The school is a "liberal" community not an authoritarian 
or regimented community, on the one hand, and not an anarchistic 
aggregate of non-co-operative individuals, on the other in propor- 
tion as all its members, older and younger, more and less able, are 
willing and responsible participants in a common enterprise. In a 
paternalistic community, authority is vested in a dominant minority 
which, however gently or firmly and in whatever spirit of benev- 
olence, imposes its will on a more or less docile or rebellious majori- 
ty. In such an authoritarian school the teachers are presumed to 
know the truth and are duty bound to try to compel their pupils to 
learn it from them. As a school approaches the opposite extreme of 
-.anarchy, each teacher and each student tends to be "on his own 1 * 
and to do what he pleases, with no sense of corporate responsibility 
or communal loyalty. In a truly liberal^academic community, in con- 
trast, it is taken for granted that each has something to contribute to 
the common good and that each has much to learn from his fel- 
lows. The laudable motto of early communism, "From each accord- 
ing to his ability, to each according to his need," might well be 
adopted as the key formula of such a liberal school community. 

The concept of such an ideal community, bound together by a 
common tradition, shared needs, and a common objective, has other 
important implications and overtones. 

"Liberal Education" and "Vocational Training" The first of 
these is the recognition that so-called "liberal education" and 
"vocational training" should be conceived of neither as hostile rivals 
nor as mutually exclusive enterprises but, on the contrary, as two 
essential and complementary aspects of the total preparation of the 
individual for his total life. The tendency of the proponents of lib- 
eral education to look down on vocational training with aristocrat- 
ic contempt is as indefensible as is the tendency of money-minded 
and business-minded vocationalists to regard liberal education as a 
useless luxury. The total educational process, liberally conceived, 
is equally concerned with man's highest cultural development and 
with the most effective training of his specialized capacities. Its dual 
goal is man's highest cultural development and his efficient and joy- 
ful performance of the specialized tasks for which he is best quali- 
fied. The basic liberal assumption is that, on the one hand. $\] gf 


man's great insights and speculations, all his general and specialized 
knowledge, all his major and minor creations, all his spiritual ven- 
tures, experiences, and beliefs, are of intrinsic value and are infinitely 
precious to him; but that, no less surely, all his practical activities, 
however simple or complex, all his day-by-day decisions and actions, 
are not only necessary but can and should be honorable, socially 
'useful, and deeply satisfying. Liberalism asserts that man is a com- 
plex being with many needs and many proper activities, physical 
and mental, practical and spiritual, routine and creative, and that a 
well-rounded liberal education will help man to satisfy all these 
needs and indulge in all these activities more skilfully, wisely, and 

It is an everlasting pity that so sharp a dichotomy has established 
itself in our minds between liberal education and vocational training, 
with the false implication that the former is somehow higher, 
though useless, and the latter, useful but somehow crass and de- 
meaning. If these two equally essential preparations for life are 
thus divorced, a merely liberal education will indeed tend to be use- 
less, and a merely vocational training, crass. What is obvioudy 
needed is a truly liberal academic community in which the study 
of art and typewriting, of philosophy and accounting, of theology 
and medicine, of pure and applied science are, though admit- 
tedly very different, judged to be equally honorable and valuable 
in their several ways. In such a community the so-called liberal 
disciplines would indeed be liberal because they would be studied 
and taught with an eye to the total enrichment of the life of respon- 
sible members of a free society; and in such a community the ac- 
quisition of the vocational skills, from the simplest to the most com- 
plex, would be equally liberal because they would be taught, not 
in a spirit of predatory egoism, but in a spirit of deep social cbncern 
for the needs of others and for the common good. 

"Curricular" and "Extracurricular" Activities. A liberal academic 
community would, in the second place, do everything in its power 
to break down the unfortunate cleavage between "curricular" and 
"extracurricular" activities on the campus. Most students today 
suffer from a more or less acute state of academic schizophrenia. In 
class their orientation tends to be iritellectualistic, their attitude 
apathetic; out of class they come to life and plunge frantically into a 


variety of social and athletic activities. Seldom if ever do most of 
them see any significant relation between their studies and their 
dominant interests; as a result, their studies remain largely un- 
motivated and their campus activities largely irresponsible and un- 
informed. A truly liberal academic community would not tolerate 
this disastrourspnt. ttwould .Qpoccxa 4t self with the total personatT- 
Qc^fjbfi-Student during all his waking hours. It would try to make 
clear to him the humane and practical significance of all his "liberal" 
and "vocational" studies, and it would make every effort to inte- 
grate his countless "extracurricular" activities, on campus and off, 
with his studies, mindful of their profound effect upon his maturing 
character and his actual working values. Liberal education, in short, ^ 
is essentially unified, not fragmented, organistic, not atomistic. It is 
ffljg^erj rn jjhie royjided development of the total personality and to 
all that the student is and thinks and does. Its goal is the well-in- 
tegrated person, equally alive and equally responsible on every front; 
its purpose is to help the youngester develop into a mature person 
who can work and play, vote and pray, intelligently, sensitively, and 

The "Ethos" of the Academic Community. Absolutely crucial for 
the total educational process, so conceived, is the prevailing ethos 
or temper of the academic community. Selection of teachers, their 
working conditions and their pay, the physical plant, the cur- 
riculum, extracurricular programs all these and many other factors 
are of course of very great importance. But most important of all 
is the dominant corporate spirit of the entire community as it 
reflects itself among all who share in its life and work administrators 
and service personnel, teachers and students, parents and members 
of school boards. Any one who is at all sensitive to this intangible 
and elusive factor is well aware, as he visits school after school, 
how very greatly the ethos can vary from campus to campus and 
how profoundly influential this factor is in everything that tran- 
spires under, or near, the academic roof. The ethos of the school can 
be unfriendly, suspicious, grudging, and even hostile or rebellious; 
it can be friendly, confident, out-going, and enthusiastic; it can be 
anything between these two extremes but whatever it is, it is per- 
vasive and contagious, for better or for worse. A lively, liberal 
ethos is, of course, the subtle product of a sound liberal academic 


tradition, of bold liberal policies, of a well-planned, liberal cur- 
riculum, etc., but it also functions causally; if it is operative, many 
major obstacles can be overcome; but, if it is absent, the finest plant 
and the ablest faculty cannot make the educational process really 


We cannot hope to be realistic in our analysis of the educational 
process or effective in its direction until we have asked ourselves the 
question: What, in fact, can be directly taught, that is, imparted to 
the student through formal instruction? If we can answer this ques- 
tion we can then ask: What should we attempt to teach our students? 

My own answer to the first of these questions is clear. We can 
help the student by formal class instruction to develop certain basic 
"liberal" skills; we can teach him, within the limits of his native 
ability, the basic^'UbQT^'^disdglines; we can teach him a great 
variety, .of JDQrejpr less complex vocational skills and procedures 
but we cannot directly "teach" him any basic attitudes or values. I 
can best explain this distinction by listing at once what I believe to be 
the basic skills which all students should be taught and the basic 
"liberal" disciplines to which all should, at least in some measure, 
be introduced. These skills and disciplines can very clearly be dis- 
tinguished from the attitudes and values which, I believe, can- 
not be "taught" in any formal way. 

The Four Basic Skills. If a student is to develop his innate human 
capacities as fully as possible and prepare himself as well as possible 
for life as a person and as a responsible citizen, he must acquire, so 
far as he can, all four of these basic complementary skills: 

a) ItO&cd-Lmguistic. He must learn to think clearly and^consistendy. and 
he must learn to use as accurately and felicitously as possible the lan- 
guage, or languages, requisite for such clear and consistent thinking 
in various crucial areas. I have here linked the logical and linguistic 
skills because it is now evident that thought requires a linguistic medi- 
um. We never think in vacuo but always in some language of human 
reflection and communication. The language each of us uses most is, 
of course, his own native tongue. But there is no substitute for the lan- 
guage, or languages, of mathematics for accurate thinking in that field, 
or for the specialized languages of the fine arts and literature, or of 


science, or of other well-developed areas of human inquiry, for pre- 
cise thinking and effective communication in these several areas. The 
impossibility of translating poetry or even first-rate literary prose from 
one verbal language to another without serious distortion underlines 
the importance of learning at least one foreign language well enough 
to be able to use it. 

This conjoint logical-linguistic skill, in its multiple ramificatioo&iari 
be "taught" by able teachers to willing students. What cannot thus be 
taught is a passion for clear and consistent thinking or a "feel for," or 
love of, a language and its precise and felicitous use. 

b) "Factual" Every student needs to learn a great many facts about him- 
s3Fa*n3f Kis physical, social, and cosmic environment if he is to survive, 
and many more if he is to live happily and usefully. He also needs to 
learn what a "fact" is and how facts are determined or established, i.e., 
the nature of factual judgments and the role of primary experience and 
reflective interpretation in all factual analysis. All this can, in prin- 
ciple, be "taught" and "learned" in class. What cannot be directly 
"taught" or "learned" is a respect for fact, hatred of error, illusion, 
and evasion, and an unquenchable thirst for reliable factual information. 

c) "Normative" Every human being, and therefore every student, is, as 
we have already pointed out, evaluating all the time; he is forever 
assessing the situations in which he finds himself, the world which he 
encounters, and his own character, motives, and objectives and those of 
others, according to some standards of value. But the uneducated per- 
son's evaluations are crude and uninformed, morally and socially, 
aesthetically and religiously. A student needs, therefore, to be taught 
how to evaluate, in all the major areas of evaluation, more sensitively 
and objectively. He should be helped to learn the nature and hazards 
of the authoritarian claim to an infallible knowledge of absolute values 
as well as the nature and .implications of a complete or nihilistic denial 
of all objective values. He should also learn the possibility and advan- 
tages of the middle TQad .of. ''critical realism" which asserts, on the one 
hand, that values are objective and that men can apprehend them more 
and more adequately, but which denies, in principle, that finite men 
can ever know any values infallibly. 

All this, once again, can be "taught" by a skilful teacher and "learned" 
by, a willing student of reasonable ability. What cannot be thus di- 
rectly taught and learned is a relish for rich and significant value ex- 
periences, a respect for objective values both as actualized and as 
ideally envisaged, and a sincere desire to learn how to evaluate more 
sensitively and objectively. 

d) Synoffaf. The final basic skill which all students can and should be 
Kielped to acquire in some degree, is the skill of seeing things in wyjer 
and deeper perspective. We are all bedevilled by countless* prbvmcial- 


isms spatial and temporal, racial and social, geographic and national, 
cultural and religious which narrow our horizons, induce self -right- 
eousness and bigotry, and create endless misunderstanding, intolerance, 
and hostility in our dealings with our fellow-men. These multiple pro- 
vincialisms can and should be identified and described, their deplorable 
effects indicated, and the many ways of extending our horizons pointed 
out. All this too can be "taught" and "learned" with more or less suc- 
cess, though no human being can hope to outgrow all his provincial- 
isms and really see life sub specie aeternitatis. What cannot thus be di- 
rectly "taught" is a lively realization of the evils of provincialism and 
the value to the individual and to mankind of more embracing and 
catholic perspectives. 

The Inculcation of Attitudes. If this analysis is at all correct, it 
follows that the core of the formal educational process should be 
the acquisition of these four basic complementary skills. In propor- 
tion as any individual acquires these skills, he becomes equipped to 
deal competently with reality and life and becomes, to this extent, a 
liberally educated person. But it is one thing to acquire these skills; 
it is another thing really to value them and use them. You can lead 
a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink. You can do a 
good deal to drill these skills into your students, but you cannot, by 
any formal pedagogical devices, induce them to respect logical 
clarity and linguistic felicity, to respect fact and abhor error, to 
respect mature, responsible evaluation, and to feel a passionate 
hatred for all divisive provincialisms and a corresponding hunger for 
synoptic perspectives and enlightened, open-minded tolerance. 

How, then, can these all-important attitudes be cultivated in the 
young? nly, I believe, by indirectionby example, inspiration, 
and contagion. This is where the personality of the teacher, his 
imagination and his moral stature, become crucially important. 
Teachers of deep conviction and genuine enthusiasm can do a great 
deal to generate these attitudes in their students. This, in fact, con- 
stitutes the art, in contradistinction to the science or technique, of 
teaching. But the most gifted and devoted teacher can accomplish 
only so much single-handed. His effectiveness is greatly enhanced 
if his efforts are reinforced by those of like-minded teachers, equally 
impassioned and enthusiastic and equally skilful in the unteachable 
and infinitely precious art of teaching. But even more important than 
the conjoint efforts of a few inspired teachers is the ethos of the 


entire academic community, for it is this ethos that will determine, 
more than any other single factor on the campus, what attitudes and 
values will in fact be instilled into the hearts of the students. A small 
group of teachers, however talented, will be able to do relatively 
little to^enfirat^Jthese attitudes and inculcate 


students if the prevailing ethos~o the school is nqjoisai or.,-iu?stile. 
Conversely, teachers of relatively limited stature as persons and as 
teachers can, in conjunction, accomplish a great deal if the prevailing 
academic ethos is affirmative and strong in its support bTtliesiUiberal 
attitudes and values. 

The foregoing analysis of the total educational process in terms 
of what can and cannot be "taught" (in a strict, formal sense) has at 
least the merit of highlighting one of the parodoxical aspects of 
liberal education namely, that what is most important can be 
achieved only by indirection, and that what can be achieved directly 
is, in the last analysis, merely a means, not an end in itself. The 
teacher's total responsibility is, on this analysis, not fully discharged 
in his formal instruction; far more important than all his knowledge 
and skill is his character, or his basic attitudes, his scale of values, 
and his philosophy of life. It is these intangibles which distinguish 
the great teacher from the competent teacher, the beloved and 
revered teacher from the feared and respected teacher. And it is the 
presence or absence of these intangibles in the campus ethos which 
makes some schools outstanding in intellectual ferment and social 
responsibility, others little more than factories which turn out, year 
after year, individuals who have "satisfied" certain academic "re- 
quirements." Teaching, in short, is both a science and an art and 
the great teacher is great because he excels in both respects. 

The Basic "Liberal" Disciplines. The four skills just enumerated, 
and the correlative affirmative attitudes and values should all, of 
course, be the concern of all teachers, whatever their specialized 
training and interest, and of all students, whatever their distinctive 
aptitudes and temperaments, because they constitute the prime con- 
dition of, and essential foundation for, anyone's liberal education. 
They and they alone can liberate man from the tyrannies of sloppy 
thinking and slovenly use of language, factual confusion, normative 
crudity, and provincial bigotry. 

The basic liberal "disciplines," in turn, issue from the application 


of these skills and attitudes to different generic aspects or areas of 
experience and reality. We cannot here examine these disciplines in 
any detail, but we can at least enumerate the most important among 
them and indicate their complementary relation to each other. 

a) The formal r/frr/'f /frrfr. TTij^gJncllldP the nyntcmflrir '>nidy_nf v rnrrfrt 
and fruitf^thinking,, on the one hand, and of language in general, and 
the several languages, notably the verbal languages, on the other. The 
two great disciplines explicitly concerned with logical analysis are 
logic and mathematics. The disciplines explicitly concerned with lan- 
guage in general are linguistics and semantics, and most of the specific 
verbal languages of mankind have by now been subjected to disciplined 

b) The factual disciplines. All the disciplines are necessarily oriented to 
certain faqts, hut gome of the major discjplinej? are 'predominantly 
factually oriented. This is obviously true of the natural sciences; their 
primary concern is to discover the complex structure of this or that 
aspect of the world of nature, including human nature. It is also true 
of the social sciencesof economics and political science, anthropolo- 
gy, sociology, and social psychology in proportion as they are scien- 
tific in primary orientation rather than prescriptive or concerned with 
social policy. The natural sciences are exemplary in factual precision; 
the social sciences, in turn, are becoming increasingly important today, 
because mankind stands so desperately in need of reliable factual 
knowledge about our human society and its institutions. 

c) Xb^nor^tivedisciplines^E.^ch of the liberal disciplines fo r Jn.kfi own 
way, pprp<;^rny^t^Tiiarivp 1 hnt T nnre gprain/ some are eYpHrifly flpd 

4>J&<fomjra^ systematic study 

of the rigfit 'and me good; aesthetics, the general study of beauty in art 
and nature; the several areas of artistic and literary criticism; and, 
finally, the systematic study of religion which should subsume the 
doctrinally anchored theologies of the world's main religions and sects. 
It is these disciplines, each with a long and honorable past, which ad- 
dress themselves to the specific task of exploring the good, the beauti- 
ful, and the holy both in themselves and in their concrete manifesta- 
tions, of formulating standards of mature appraisal, and of applying 
these standards to concrete situations. 

d) The sy*iftpt** fficte/fagj.JHowever pluralistic our universe may be and 
however diverse our various experiences of it, the fact remains that 
reality ,j^WfiJ2n un ter it and partially reconstruct it^ ,doe^xliibh r 

OBajay ST? f unily^anff'cojg|ten7T!hifif among" thie matrices of sig- 
nificant re^fi3flStTrps""are time, space, causality, and value. It is these 
"binders" which constitute the bases of the synoptic disciplines, that 
is, the disciplines with which we try to explore the major ways in 


which things and events stand in meaningful relationship to one an- 
other. History as a discipline operates primarily along the axis of time; 
it is in essence synoptic since all human experience occurs in time. 
Geography correspondingly explores space and its multiple signifi- 
cances for human life. Philosophy is, in a sense, even more synoptic 
since it surveys all spatiotemperal phenomena in their essential diver- 
sities and similarities, their basic causal interconnections and, in ad- 
dition, their relation to actualized and ideal values. Finally, the liberal 
study of religion can and should be one of the richest synoptic dis- 
ciplines since religion is man's ultimate attempt to relate time and 
eternity, the profane and holy, causality and freedom, fact and value, 
objective theory and existential decision to one another in a meaning- 
ful and life-giving manner. 

These, then, are the four^eat_farmlies^_of jnajpr^ disciplines. A 
soundly conceived school curriculum will, therefore, give every stu- 
dent as aflequate" a~ framing in each of them as time and his native 
ability permit. Each ^Eu^Jeinirshould be helped and encouraged to 
learn to think as clearly as possible, with the aid of logic and 
mathematics; to achieve competence, if not felicity, in his mother 
tongue and in one or more of the other major "languages" most 
likely to be beneficial to him; ta-hecorne as factually informed and 
factually minded as possible regarding the world of nature and the 
society of which he is a part; tQ. acquire greater sensitivity to moral, 
aesthetic, and religious values, jmd to learn how to make his value 
judgments in all these areas more responsible and mature; and, finally, 
so far as he is able, to see the present in the illuminating context of 
the past, the here in the context ofjhe there^and, above all, the 
relation of the proximate to trie ultimate, of the finite to the infinite, 
of fact to value, and of trie secular to the holy. The farther he is 
able to travel along this great highway of significant human culture, 
the better equipped will he be for life as a person, as a member of 
smaller and larger social groups, and as a finite creature endowed 
with choice and moral responsibility. 


The foregoing account of man's basic liberal skills, attitudes, and 
disciplines may suffice to indicate the larger educational strategy 
which seems to me to be dictated by my fundamental philosophical 
presuppositions and by a truly liberal philosophy of education as I 


conceive of it. It is, of course, far too brief and condensed to be 
adequate even at the level of strategy. But what must now be em- 
phasized is the necessity of translating this or any other strategic 
blueprint of education into tactical terms, that is, of thinking out 
the applicability of these very general rubrics and principles to 
each of the educational levels, to the very divergent needs and 
capacities of individual students at each level, and to the widely 
different traditions and resources of school communities in various 
sections of our country. Such translation calls for infinite flexibility, 
patience, shrewdness, tact, and courage. If the resultant educational" 
product is to be really meaningful and valuable^ we must take our 
students as we find them at each age level, in this or that specific 
community with all its social traditions and pressures, in this period 
of history. The most idealistic curriculum is wasted on students un- 
able to benefit from it; what will inform and inspire one student will 
leave another student ignorant and bored; many a venture can be 
successful in one community and utterly unsuccessful in another. 
The basic principle, "the more liberal education the better," in no 
way contradicts the correlative principle that only that educational 
process is realistic which actually takes root and becomes operative 
in the hearts and minds of the students in our charge. 

The principle of flexible adaptation also dictates the fullest recog- 
nition of whatever we now know about the ripening of human ca- 
pacities from early youth through adolescence into maturity, for 
example, memorizing and abstract reasoning both have their ap- 
propriate roles in the total educational process. We know, however, 
that the ability to-mejupri^e is pronounced in our earlier years and 
that our ability to think abstractly increases as we grow older. 
Other capacities, for example, the ability to evaluate, are evident 
all along the line and invite appropriate cultivation at each educa- 
tional level. These and many other crucial factors must be taken 
into account in devising efficient educational tactics in each school 

Such tactics can be devised, of course, only by teachers and 
administrators who are themselves well educated in the great liberal 
tradition. Here, as elsewhere, water will not rise higher than its 
source. No scfrool can be educationally superior to the conjoint 
and wisdom of those who are in control/ This indicates 


another major responsibility of the school, namcly^tojgovide its 
teachers and administrators with every possible opportunity and 
incentive to correct^ so far as possible, ^eir^j^x^fiiiupatipngl^ de- 
ficiencies and to continue, until they retire from active service, their 
own liberal education. Much can be done along these lines through 
close association of teachers in the different disciplines through 
common projects, study groups, etc.; much can also be accomplished 
in carefully planned and financed leaves of absence and summer 
study. We must never forget that in a truly liberal _academiccom- 
munity everyone, teachers no less than students, are continuously 
engaged in the educational process a process which no one ever 


A final word must be added regarding what some may feel to be 
the aristocratic overjQ|j& fc Q jjppUcations of my account of "the edu- 
cational process. This issue is of major importance and calls for a 
forthright statement. 

"I have assumed Jthrpujj^jut JthgE jnan. js essentially a purposive 
osiye activities are motivated by a desire to 
to promote whatever causes command his 
allegiance^ that he can, therefore, always cfo foette_orjworse. advance 
9E regress,,, according to his own relevant standards; that these 
standards are themselves more or less valid, that Js, more or less in 
with B the objective values which in fact are operative in 

human life; and, finally,, that jt is the^ msljisixfi^^ose of education 
to help men, jmproye their working standards,., and learn how to 

[ have assumed, in short, that life itself is gglective. yewardinp some 
motives* jnjpentipjtis, and typesNof behavior andfpeTiaimng others; that 
integrity and love, for example, produce individual well-being and 
social harmony, whereas their opposites produce personal disintegra- 
tion and social tension.,! believe that truth and justice, beauty and 
[ipliness, have a character of their own and tha 

proportion JLS we ^apprehend thcjr^^ejiamr^ them in 

our lives. 

TTthis is true, it follows that snrr^ flnqp ^ e j|n fact^ wiser than 
others^ that some works_ pfjrt are more successful and more signif- 


leant than other works of art, that some sociajjffitnfles, typesjgf 
organization, and kinds of corporate action arc more beneficial than 
others for the commonweal, and that some^men and women are more 
susceptible to, and expressive of, spiritual light and jpower than" are 
the majority of their fellows. In short, it seems to be a very 

obvious fact that men are not equal in native capacity or in final 

..... " ma. i .-* *-*--.._... ....... f j , .,., 

achievement in any area of human effort. They are very unequal, 
some excelling in this respect, others in that. Life itself, in a word, 
seems to operate in a very aristocratic fashion, its regularities and 
dynamisms producing among men, as they do in the world of nature, 
very uneven results, some vastly superior to others. uSjlJLtlinidejof 
honest and clear-headed realism would dictate the fullest recognition 
pf tfris fact that tnjth jne^Hjff er from error and is preferable to it, 
that justice is preferable to injustice, authentic .art to J&. sentimental 
variants, love to hatred, peace to war, etc., and that, in addition, 
people do in fact differ very greatly in the degree to which they are 
able to find and to actualize the better rather^ thanjhe^. w?se.. To 
deny this objectively ordained hierarchy of values and this uneven- 
ness of human performance is to lapse into a hopelessly unrealistic 
and Utopian egalitarianism which flies in the face of everything we 

The Jeff ersoniaa conception of democracy is, as I interpret it, 
entirely consistent with this raaHstiontcrplS^^n of life and reality. 
What Jefferson advocated was not egalitarianism but the sound 
democratic principle of helping each individual, without regard to 
race, color, or creed, to make the most of himself, to rise as high in 
the scale of values as his native endowment permits this for his own 
sake and also for the sake of society. Each individual is entitled to 
such help, Jefferson believed, because of his intrinsic value as a 
person; and society, particularly a democratic society, sorely needs 
leaders as liberally educated as possible for posts of civic respon- 
sihillty Hence Jefferson's pride in the University of Virginia which 
was to be open to all who could qualify for admission and which 
was to educate the unusually able for social leadership. 

This Jefferspnian fusion of objective aristocracy and social de- 

tolerate special 

privileges on the basis of race, creed, color; or social and economic 
background is indeed profoundly undemocratic and illiberal. But to 


refuse to give the able and ambitious student educational opportuni- 
ties which his less able and less ambitious fellows do not desire and 
could not use is as unjust to the promising individual as it is harmful 
to the community. The motto, "To each according to his ability," 
would seem to be inescapably wise and just, provided only that the 
ethos of the school and of the wider community supports its dem- 
ocratic correlative, "From each according to his gifts." 

I have already indicated what, in the light of my philosophical 
presuppositions, I believe the school should do for the individual in 
our society, for our society as an experimental democratic com- 
munity, and for the cause of religion. I can, therefore, summarize 
very briefly whatever seems to me to call for special emphasis in 
each of these large areas of academic responsibility. 

The School and the Individual 

The first responsibility of the school is to each student as an in- 
dividual, while he is still exposed to formal instruction and in antici- 
pation of his life as a mature person and citizen. Liberalism, stemming 
as it does out of our Hebraic-Christian and our democratic traditions, 
is radically opposed to the exaltation of any social group at the ex- 
pense of the individual, or to any compelled sacrifice of the in- 
dividual for the greater glory and power of the group. The truly 
liberal community will reflect this profound concern for the in- 
dividual, whatever his native endowment; it will do everything in 
its power to promote his personal welfare. 

It will seek to do so, however, not sentimentally but realistically; 
it will take fully into account man's capacity for loyalty to other 
individuals, to a variety of social groups, and to values and causes 
which can give meaning and direction to human life. It will there- 
fore, while helping him to develop himself as freely and creatively 
as possible, simultaneously help him to discover how he can best be 
of service to his fellow-men. It will, in short, seek to educate him 
for a life of creative responsibility, a life in which he will not only 
make the maximum use of his creative potentialities but in which 
he will also be eager to use his various capacities in a socially re- 
sponsible manner. 

Thp lihprq) c^hr^i wiji strive to achieve ^this objective by doing 
full justice to thejnd^idual^sjiative spontaneity, on the one hand, 


and, on the other, his need for discipline and training. Aware that 
undisciplined spontaneity inevitably leads to . :rnal and social 
anarchy, it will not stress spontaneity at the expense of discipline; 
but, equally aware that mere regimentation can produce nothing 
but humanly frustrated robots, it will always temper discipline with 
individual freedom. It will seek, moreover, to lead the individual, 
as far and as fast as possible, out of his immaturity, where discipline 
must be largely imposed, toward greater and greater maturity, where 
the individual becomes progressively more and more self-disciplined. 

The liberally oriented school will .do its best to help its students take 

""* """" * """ * * .-...-- { | ...... ^j 

charge of their own education as rapidly as they are able to" <ft)"so 
and to realize that, in the last analysis, everyone must educate him- 
self. This realization, in turn, will lead the student to the further 
discovery that real education is not only self-directed and self- 
motivated but that it is also a life-long process. While real education 
must be initiated and supervised by others during the individual's 
formative years, it cannot be completed in any academic program, 
however prolonged; rather, it should continue throughout life as 
an activity which is intrinsically satisfying and which is absolutely 
essential to continued intellectual, moral, and spiritual growth. 

Finally, the school, if it is itself enlightened and mature, will do 
its best to make the student's total school experience an introduction 
to "existential" living. It will strenuously resist the common belief 
that school is merely a prelude to "life" and that "life" really begins 
at graduation. It will seek to make the student's multiple experiences, 
in class and out of class, as vital and meaningful as possible, in the 
confident hope that such experiences will lead to ever more poignant 
and significant experiences in later life. It will also try to equip the 
student with a philosophy of life, or at least with a way of reflecting 
upon life and its possibilities, that will enhance rather than diminish 
his natural zest for life and that will help, not hinder, his spontaneous 
search for meanings and purposes worthy of his highest loyalties. 
It will strive, in short, 40 help each individual student acquire, in 
terms of his own ability and background, the most realistic atti- 
tude toward the many hazards and creative possibilities of human 

This help will, of course, include "vocational" guidance as well 
as "liberal" instruction. The enlightened school will recognize the 


value of specialized skills in our highly industrialized and competitive 
society, and it will make every effort to help its students discover 
their own aptitudes and limitations and to acquire the vocational 
skills for which they are best suited. But it will simultaneously try 
to help its students to think of this or that vocation not merely, or 
even primarily, as a money-making device but also, and essentially, 
as a way of serving the community. It will, in shortjjifig^^tociiltivate 
in them a "professional" attitude, that is, an attitude in which T:Ke 
Stffisf actions of congenial and creative work and of genuine service 
to mankind are the dominant satisfactions. This approach implies 
not a cleavage between "life"' and "work," or between a "good life" 
and a "good living," but rather a realistic and healthy amalgamation 
of both concerns, each of which is, in its own way, of such crucial 
importance to all of us. 

The School and Society 

No one of our major institutions is as dependent upon the state 
as is the school, and none has a higher responsibility to the society 
to which it belongs. This is particularly true of the school in a free 
society, for such a society must depend upon it, more than upon 
any other of its institutions, to educate its people for citizenship and 
social responsibility. 

The school's first responsibility to a free society is to teach its 
students the basic structure and essential processes of a democratic 
community and, so far as possible, to infuse in them a life-long re- 
spect for, apd devotion to, our precious freedoms and everything 
that contributes to their continuance and enhancement. Its primary 
task in this area is to give them a genuine understanding of popular 
self-government under law and of the ultimate rights and duties of 
every man, woman, and child in a self-governing nation. Above all, 
it is obligated to try to generate in them a lively sense of civic and 
political responsibility which will motivate and direct their social 
activities in whatever walk of life they eventually find themselves. 

The school's second social responsibility is to try to cultivate in 
its students an enduring realizationjhatjhergjs jlQthing- sarrnsanct 
or absolute in any form of social and^litical^OTipQracy, including 
our own; that every document we revere, including our own Con- 


stitution, is itself fimtetrndfallible the creation of wise and resource- 
ful men and, it may well be, superior to any comparable covenant 
in human history, but nevertheless subject, in principle, to further 
revision and improvement by an evolving and maturing liberal so- 
ciety; and that our particular form of democracy, with its separation 
of powers and its many legal and legislative processes which have 
served us so well for so many years, is, nonetheless, not necessarily 
the only, or the best, political expression of the democratic faith, for 
other nations or even for our own. Our students should learn in 
school, once and for all, that honest criticism of anything in our 
social order is not only legal but desirable, that minority opinions 
must be respected in a free society even if they do not eventually 
prevail, and that our corporate search for social justice and political 
wisdom is promoted, not retarded or jeopardized, by public and 
private debate on all controversial issues. 

The last, and in many ways the highest, responsibility of the 
school in our "land of the free" is the inculcation in its students, 
from the youngest to the oldest, of a passionate concern for social 
justice and a profound hatred of all forms of social exploitation and 
oppression, both at home and abroad. No free society can preserve 
its self-respect if it becomes indifferent and callous to the multiple 
injustices that are bound to arise in every society. And we, in this 
country, will not be able to preserve our own basic rights and 
freedoms unless we really believe that they are simultaneously the 
rights and freedoms which men should possess, as human beings, 
throughout the globe. We can hope to maintain our respect for one 
another only so long as we cultivate in ourselves a similar respect 
for all men, even the most unfortunate, and only so long as we do 
whatever we can to improve their human lot. Our humanitarianism, 
if it is to be vital, must be world-wide in scope. Truly to love and 
cherish our own nation, we must respect the legitimate aspirations 
of other nations. If we would have peace and prosperity in our time, 
and in our children's time, we must co-operate wholeheartedly with 
all other nations who are willing to co-operate with us for a world 
order productive of such prosperity and such enduring peace. All 
this the school, committed to the liberal faith, is under solemn ob- 
ligation to infuse into the hearts and minds of each of its students 
as early, completely, and enduringly as it possibly can. 


The School and Religion 

I have already expressed my deep conviction that the school should 
encourage in all its students that "ultimate concern for.thc_Ultimate" 
which, in Professor Paul Tillich's phrase, constitutes the heart of 
religion. So defined, a man's working religion is identical with his 
highest loyalty and with the utmost seriousness of which he is capa- 
ble; the irreligious attitude, according to this standard, is a cynical, 
or a hopeless, repudiation of all ultimate seriousness and final loyalty. 
Whatever else the school, public or private, may or may not attempt 
in the area of religion^Jt can^and should atjoast -do. its best to per- 
suade its students to take life seriously and to search strenuously for 
something worthy of their complete and absolute allegiance. 

But even the tax-supported school should, I believe, go further 
than this in religious instruction. Particularly in our society, which 
has been so profoundly moulded by our great Hebraic-Christian 
tradition, the school should give all its students a chance to learn 
what this tradition is and what it is that characterizes the chief con- 
temporary variants of the Hebrew and Christian faiths. They should 
also be introduced to humanism at its courageous and inspiring best, 
and they should learn to understand, and to respect, honest religious 
doubt and skepticism. They should, in short, be introduced to the 
great alternative ways of conceiving of, and responding to, ultimate 
reality which sincere and able people in our society are embracing 
and testing out in their daily lives. How else can the growing and 
maturing youth be really free to choose for himself that historical 
faith by which, in his most reflective moments, he would wish to 

It may seem strange that I, who sincerely and openly profess the 
Christian faith as modern liberal Protestantism defines it, should not 
advocate the teaching of this faith alone. The answer is not far to 
seek. As a teacher in a genuinely liberal university I do everything 
in my power to give my students as adequate an understanding of 
this faith as I can, and I do not hesitate to express, on all appropriate 
occasions, my wholehearted commitment to these beliefs and this 
way of life. But I can do so with a good liberal and Christian con- 
science only because many of my colleagues, as sincere as I am and 
many of them far more able and far better informed than I, are as 


free as I am to expound a very different faith and to confess their 
equally wholehearted loyalty to it. This state of affairs is, I believe, 
specifically dictated by the liberal philosophy which I have been 
advocating in this essay. However persuaded I am of the truth of 
the Christian Gospel as I conceive of it, I am equally persuaded that 
I, and all other men, my church and all other churches, J|rej5nite_ 
and fallible; that my truth and my church's truth, however inspired, 
must inevitably fall shqrt of the whole truth in all its length and 
depth: and, above all, that it is man's basic freedom and responsibility 
to stand on his own feet, to make his own decisions and his own 
mistakes, in short, to seek for God and worship Him in his own 
way, or, at his own mortal risk, to eschew this search and worship 
lesser gods of his own contrivance. 

This is why I have argued that the school should scrupulously 
maintain an attitude of official neutrality on this, as on all other, 
controversial matters. This neutrality should not, however, be con- 
fused with neglect or indifference. Religion should not be ignored; 
on the contrary, it should be studied and discussed, in its Far Eastern 
forms as well as in its more familiar Hebraic and Christian forms. 
It should be studied and taught, however, always in the liberal spirit 
of honest inquiry followed by free individual decision. The one 
and only attitude that should be deliberately inculcated in our stu- 
dents is the attitude of profound concern for whatever can give 
meaning and value to human life and of profound respect for all 
sincerely and openly held ultimate beliefs, however much they may 
differ from our own. 

If this interpretation of liberalism is felt by anyone to be unchris- 
tian, I must be judged to be, first and foremost, a liberal and, sec- 
ondarily, a Christian heretic. All I can offer in self-defense is that the 
liberalism which I have here attempted to expound and defend is, 
I sincerely believe, completely consistent with the authentic spirit 
of Christianity. As a Christian I would, indeed, go much further 
than I have thought it proper to go in this sketch of my philosophy 
of education, for, as a Christian, I do believe that all objective value 
and, indeed, all of reality is rooted in God, and that this God is in 
fact the only and the ultimate source of human redemption. A school 
which forbids the bold and enthusiastic teaching of this faith, along 
with other faiths, is, I believe, culpably obscurantist and illiberal; but 


a school which seeks to indoctrinate its students with this faith 
would, in my judgment, be a Stariaa and not a truly liberal .ed- 
ucational iastkudoiL.There is a place, I fully agree, for such sectarian 
schools in our free society; but the liberalism to which our de- 
mocracy is dedicated and to which I, for one, believe authentic 
Christianity to be committed must be taught and exemplified in truly 
liberal academic communities, both independent and tax-supported, 
at all the educational levels. It should be the highest responsibility 
of all such liberal institutions, I repeat, to open all doors to our youth 
and to see to it that there are sincere and able teachers available who 
can lead our young people to these doors and far enough through 
them to enable them to comprehend what lies over the threshold, 
so that they themselves may, in due course, be really free to select 
a faith to live by as responsible moral agents. 


CUNIGGIM, MERRIMON. The College Seeks Religion. New Haven, Connecticut: 

Yale University Press, 1947. 
FAIRCHILD, HOXIE N., and OTHERS. Religious Perspectives of College Teaching. 

New York: Ronald Press Co., 1952. 

LIVINGSTONE, SIR RICHARD. On Education. New York: Macmillan Co., 1944. 
LOWRY, HOWARD. The Mind's Adventure. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 

MARITAIN, JACQUES. Education at the Crossroads. New Haven, Connecticut: 

Yale University Press, 1943. 
MOBERLY, SIR WALTER. The Crisis in the University. London: Student Christian 

Movement Press, 1949. 
NASH, ARNOLD. The University and the Modern World. New York: Macmillan 

Co., 1943. 
The Teaching of Religion in American Higher Education. Edited by Christian 

Gauss. New York: Ronald Press Co., 1951. 

TRUE&LOOD, DAVID ELTON. The Predicament of Modern Man. New York: Har- 
per & Bros., 1944. 

VAN DUSEN, H. P. God in Education. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1951. 
WILDER, AMOS. Liberal Learning and Religion. New York: Harper & Bros., 



An Experimentalist Approach to Education* 



Terminology may or may not be important here. Yet, in preferring 
"experimentalist" to "pragmatic," it should be noted that the name 
"pragmatism" has not really been philosophically useful, except for 
purposes of abuse, since the death of William James. John Dewey 
himself, in his Logic (1938, deprecated the term, at least as a noun, 
because of all the misconceptions which had become attached to it. 
Even the more recent label of "instrumentalism" already has fallen 
out of favor, again because of the connotations which decades of 
earnest effort have been unable to remove, connotations which are 
vulgar and almost wilfully persistent. Whether "experimentalism" 
has any better chance of resisting misinterpretation still remains an 
open question. 

A second preliminary may also be quickly mentioned. Whatever 
may be the final judgment about the educational philosophy of 
Dewey and his followers, there can be no question of the stimulating 
effect that controversies over the "progressive" position have had 
upon academic philosophy, even to the point of provoking a des- 
perate return to the Middle Ages. Despite the severity of this kind 
of remedy, it has been healthy for philosophers to begin to lose the 
patronizing attitude so often aroused in them by any mention of 
professional "education." That education provides the final testing 
ground for even the most abstruse and technical hypotheses of 
academic philosophy may seem an overstatement, but only if "ed- 
ucation" is artifically restricted and caricaturishly portrayed. In any 
event, it is an auspicious occasion when philosophers are willing to 

* Educational Consultant: Professor Lawrence G. Thomas, Stanford Uni- 
versity, Stanford, California. 



conspire together over the mundane concerns of teaching and 

Basic Orientation 

It is not easy to determine where to begin a concise exposition of 
experimentalism. Certainly at least two basic questions must be 
briefly developed: the theories of knowledge and of value. These 
are central for both the philosophy itself and for its educational im- 
plications; fortunately, the two theories are joined, making economy 
of exposition both possible and relevant./ 

(if there is any word-symbol which can represent the general atti- 
tude behind the experimentalist approach to knowledge and value 
it is continuity, or, in Dewey's more recent vocabulary, transaction^ 
Indeed, that there is a "problem" of knowledge or of value is itself 
indicative of some kind of d/jcontinuity. The classic dualism be- 
tween an antiseptic and ultimate reality, waiting to be known, and 
a sentient mind, all ready to infect that reality and distort it into 
appearance, is, of course, almost a definition of discontinuity. Dis- 
closure of the world to a spectator somehow outside it but willing 
to be shown provides the raw material for the resulting epistemo- 
logical industry. Without a gap between the world and the knower, 
there is no general problem of knowledge, or, rather, of knowledge 
in general. 

To account for the plausibility of a paralyzing dualism such as 
this would go far beyond the scope ( of the present essay. But, in an 
admittedly peremptory fashion, one might suggest that classic phi- 
losophy inherited a form of cultural schizophrenia, and then pro- 
ceeded to rationalize it on nearly every level of discourse metaphys- 
ical, moral, epistemological, religious, to go no further. jThe etiology 
of that schizophrenia will depend naturally on one's philosophy of 
history. But whether the dualism be attributed to class structure, 
or to the incidence of political power, or to religious charism, or to 
the rise of science and technology against a background of magic, 
or to even subtler contrasts afforded by climate, sex, or whatever- 
there is little question that some general reason must be found for 
the tradition which divides fact from value, body from mind, matter 
from form, the world from the knower (and even the curriculum 
from the pupil).; A sociology of dualism would seem indicated to 


account for the perverse divisiveness which men have continually 
introduced into their lives. In any case, the traditional problem of 
knowledge seems a particularly apt illustration of it, a kind of 
rake's progress. 

It is a little strange that epistemology has exercised the fascination 
that it has. After all, the net result of the difficulties labeled epistemo- 
logical would be to cast so grave a suspicion upon "knowledge in 
general" that any specific act of knowing would logically collapse. 
This is perhaps why the scientist has consistently refused to be im- 
pressed by a problem of knowledge. His context of knowing or in- 
quiry is fixed by a particular problem or set of problems (whether 
theoretical or applied), and therefore the most fruitful assumptions 
in science are designed to integrate, not to separate, problem and 
solution. There are problems of knowledge, of course, but they are 
not "epistemological," that is, not those of trying to get an already 
separated subjective knower and objective world together again; 
they are contextual problems, those concerned with initiating and 
directing a series of inquiries called into existence by difficulties to 
be overcome. Significant knowledge about an atom or a star, a 
human mind or a social system, a jellyfish, or the history of your 
country is not achieved by arresting the inquiry at the very start 
on grounds of first-degree epistemology. Whether we can ever 
actually see an atom or experience another's mind or feel as a jelly- 
fish does or be on the shores waiting for Columbus may be fascinat- 
ing questions; but they do not preclude the growth of knowledge 
about these things. And such knowledge is in every case different 
from what the spectator theory assumes, 1 for it is knowledge which 
depends on actions and operations like those of Wilson cloud cham- 
bers, Geiger counters, spectroscopes, sphygmographs, statistical in- 
dices, documentary analysis, and thousands of other entries to knowl- 
edge, entries totally unlike the otiose contemplations basic to classic 
theories of knowledge. 

This is a bare outline of an approach to knowledge different from 
that presented by the spectator theories of traditional philosophy. 
It is an approach not intended to be simply one more example of 

i. A development of this entire argument will be found in George R. Geiger, 
Philosophy and the Social Order, chap, v, especially pp. 1448. Boston: Hough- 
ton-Mifflin Co., 1947. 


a dialectic or a rhetoric.^An experimentalist interpretation of knowl- 
edge is instead a description of the way problems are actually solved, 
above all by scientific method] and it reveals a number of assump- 
tions, all of them diverging sharply from those which underlie 
knowledge in its more honorific aspect. For example, the spectator 
theory of knowledge presupposes a given and fixed reality that, as it 
were, waits to be uncovered. Knowledge thus becomes, as Dewey 
phrased it, a quest for certainty, for final revelation of an eternal 
and unchanging world. But an experimentalist or contextualistic 
theory needs no such assumption. To solve a problem means in some 
way to alter the situation which has set the problem; a transformation 
of the subject matter of experience becomes compulsory. The as- 
sumption of an aloof and inscrutable reality standing off from the 
human onlooker and teasing him would void the very meaning of 
experimentation, just as it has tended to define "experience" solely 
in terms of the passive and the "mental." But experience is in fact 
the result of an active co-operation between knower and the known, 
in which manipulation, change, and control take the place of the 
jnere looking that is so conspicuous in traditional epistemology. 
Knowing is operational, not simply a beholding. Every laboratory 
is a scene of action. Thumping, pulling, squeezing, stretching (how- 
ever refined and subtle they may become), not to mention down- 
right hammering, are as integral a part of the experimental process 
as is the most exquisite of pointer-readings. The very pattern of the 
experiment makes the age-old distinctions between certain and un- 
certain, matter and mind, object and subject blurred and less plausi- 
ble. The chasm separating knower from the known seems less 
forbidding, -' 

A similar repudiation of discontinuity can be reached in ways 
other than those of methodology. One way would be that of taking 
organic evolution seriously. Antinaturalists (say, Mortimer Adler) 
show a shrewd instinct when they attempt a bold, desperate, and 
direct challenge of the evolutionary hypothesis, even on (allegedly) 
scientific grounds not simply on those of metaphysics and theology. 
For if the implications of evolution are securely grasped, and this 
does not always happen, the very foundations of dualism are cut 
away. To take evolution seriously is to accept biological continuity. 
And this means, among other things, that the live creature is not 

GE IGE R 141 

divided from its environment in some irrecoverable fashion, that con- 
scious experience and nature are not antithetical, that knowledge is 
a matter of vital participation in a world of which it is a part rather 
than the idle glances of a disinterested and outside watcher. To take 
evolution seriously (and how else can we take it?) is to be a 
naturalist: To be a naturalist is to see man, his works, and his values 
as a great transaction going on within the world and not outside 
it as a transaction, not a "reduction." For one of the tragic mis- 
understandings of modern naturalism has been to equate it with 
old-fashioned materialism and mechanism, or even with Bertrand 
Russell's "free man" who, in his worship, celebrates the meaningless- 
ness of the universe. But to regard the universe as completely alien 
to man and his hopes seems as much of a small-boy attitude as to find 
in it nothing but plums and goodies. Certainly it is an attitude which 
fragments and disconnects the world; therefore, it cannot be 
genuinely naturalistic, nor can it be reconciled with the continuity 
demonstrated by evolution. 

Now, what does all this add up to? What generalizations about 
knowledge can be made on the basis of the above theoretical ap- 
proach? The following items 2 may indicate quickly how a naturalis- 
tic and necessarily relativistic theory of knowledge will have con- 
sequences differing sharply from those entailed by a static spectator 
theory: (a) knowledge can be neither discovery nor disclosure of an 
aloof and already predetermined existence, for the very nature of 
knowing depends upon a joint achievement of organism and en- 
vironment; (b) so, the knower, as well as the perceived environ- 
ment, is part of his knowledge; (c) individual differences in knowl- 
edge among men can be detected and controlled, eliminated or 
prized; but the general human element in all knowledge can be 
neither isolated nor eliminated; (d) scientific knowledge is relative 
to knowers in specific contexts; (e) thus, what something may be 
when totally independent of any observer or frame of reference is a 
scientifically meaningless question, for knowledge is a transaction. 

It will have been evident now that we have been slipping from a 
theory of knowledge to one of value. This has not been in- 
advertent. The two concepts must join; if not, then the greatest 
of discontinuities will still face us, that between morals and tech- 

2. Suggested to me by my consultant, Professor Thomas. 


nology. The gap between what men know and what they want as 
good, between an understanding of nature and the ethical applica- 
tion of that understanding is, of course, so incandescent in these 
nuclear days that awareness of it has become banal and journalistic 
but no less frightening for that. If experimentalism prides itself on 
continuity (and regards it as something more than a magic talisman), 
then it must address itself above all to a naturalistic explanation of 
value. In fact, this is what John Dewey was doing for more than 
two generations. 

To find an entry into a naturalistic and experimentalist theory of 
value is not difficult. For one thing, there are the "metaphysical" 
assumptions noted in a preceding page, the assumptions demanded 
by evolutionary continuity. If, like evolution, naturalism is to be 
taken seriously, values must be closely related to the world in which 
man finds himself. One kind of relationship may be disclosed by 
what is almost a pun, the double meaning of the word "end." On 
the morally honorific level, ends are goals, goods, purposes, pre- 
ferred outcomes, telic factors, values. But ends are also endings, 
finalities, closures, stops, finis. Is the connection between the terms 
only a pun? 

An attempted answer to that question would begin with the 
recognition that natural processes do start and stop. Almost any ex- 
ample would serve to disclose the pulsation and rhythm constituting 
organic (and inorganic) continuity. The cycles of the days and the 
seasons, of waking and sleeping, of the crops and of life and death 
themselves; the ebb and flow of the waters and the moon and the 
blood; the very rhythm and pulse that we proceed to call atom or 
even curve and numberthese could be extended to include almost 
the definition of nature. These processes are, of course, serial, so that 
endings are not necessarily forever, although they may be. A natural 
end, then, is a pause great or small where an event comes to a 
period, or at least to a semicolon. 

What has this to do with ends as values, as goals or goods? Is 
naturalism but a new name for teleology, i.e., for an underlying pur- 
posiveness in the world? Such an interpretation would undoubtedly 
be extreme and unacceptable unless the transactional relationship 
of the live creature to its environment be explored as fully as it can 
be. If that is done, then the beginnings and endings of events, the 
series of natural affairs, are found to involve both phases of the 


transaction: man, one part of nature, is implicated in other parts of 
nature. Some of these beginnings and endings favor his activities, 
others do not. The rhythms of nature are what they are: to man they 
can be beneficial, neutral, harmful. To regard all of natural processes 
as exclusively good or bad or supremely indifferent is blatantly 
anthropomorphic: To regard man himself a natural process, evolv- 
ing and growing in a world not made for him, yet not made to 
thwart him in some conspiratorial fashionas a dynamic, interacting 
factor, choosing among the other serial events around him in order to 
survive and develop, is to discover why some natural endings be- 
come "ends in view" and others "ends to be rejected," i.e., values 
and disvalues. Men must choose. As they do, the process of evalua- 
tion becomes established, a process no less a part of the natural world 
than any other. 

If this is not convincing, another approach may be suggested. 
Traditional philosophy, hypnotized by the discontinuous charms of 
a theory of knowledge, has tended to attribute a surdish character 
(even an absurd one) to qualities, say, like color, or pleasure, or 
beauty, which have been labelled "secondary" and "tertiary," a 
status indicating their degree of removal from reality with its "pri- 
mary" nature of solidity, form, extension. Thus, a dualistic epis- 
temology has forced into a mental, private, and "merely" subjective 
realm the very qualities which men are most likely to seek or reject, 
those immediate qualities without which a definition of value be- 
comes impossible. In short, just as the spectator theory of knowledge 
finds it baffling to explain why the world needs to be copied in the 
first place, so the parallel theory of value finds it equally baffling to 
account for the appearance of qualities like sound, beauty, and desire 
when, allegedly, they are not out there waiting to be copied. They 
must perforce come from some defect in man's perceiving mirror. 
Contrary to this, a consistently naturalistic philosophy must recog- 
nize, to quote Dewey, that "empirically, things are poignant, tragic, 
beautiful, humorous, settled, disturbed, comfortable, annoying, bar- 
ren, harsh, consoling, splendid, fearful; are such immediately and in 
their own right and behalf." Any other interpretation presents that 
familiar cleavage of nature (and culture) which divides irretrievably 
hard things from soft qualities, thereby making all consummatory 
experience suspect, inexplicable, and unnatural. 

What we have been trying to say, then, if only in a necessarily 


abbreviated and elliptical way, is something like this:( (a) A philoso- 
phy of naturalism must regard values, like man himself, as part of 
the continuous flow and process constituting nature, (b) Values are 
to be found when, among the natural rhythms, among the begin- 
nings and endings of events, man makes his choices, (c) His choices 
are, of course, successful only as they help to adapt his behavior to 
the natural order, (d) However, that natural order is not something 
alien and obdurate and completely qualityless. The closures of nature 
whether or not they are congenial to men are as final, ultimate, 
and immediate (in the aesthetic sense) as the consummatory ex- 
periences men seek and call "ends in view" or "ends in themselves." 
This approach to a theory of value, as noted earlier, has been from 
a "metaphysical" angle and has been suggested as the logical com- 
plement of both evolutionary continuity and continuity of knowl- 
edge. Other experimentalist approaches to value could be explored, 
especially those involving methodology, but perhaps they may be- 
come apparent as we turn now to specific educational problems. 
Likewise, other forms of continuity, as in psychology of learning, 
may also disclose themselves. For if there is anything of merit which 
an experimentalist philosophy can contribute to the educational proc- 
ess it will be found in the constant challenge to discontinuities. In 
education, as in philosophy, problems are manufactured when what 
is naturally integrated becomes artificially severed and therefore 

Aims cmd Values of Education 

^Education in the broadest sense can be nothing less than the 
changes made in human beings by their experience/)Whether such 
changes carry ethical implications is a nice question depending on 
the degree of the direction of change and the possibility of control 
over it. When, however, the more limited and more usual denotation 
of education is intended the deliberate change in the experience and 
conduct of persons (chiefly, but not necessarily, young persons) 
engineered by an organized and conscious group the moral implica- 
tions are indeed staggering. They include not only the subjects, 
sometimes the victims, of the process but the initiators as well, since 
nothing presents so clear a challenge to a vested group as the op- 
portunity to educate or to indoctrinate others. The overwhelming 
social significance of education can be located partly in this com- 


pulsory self-examination of the educator. There is no escaping the 
conclusion that education is a moral affair, that it is pre-eminently 
a value enterprise. 

Now, a statement like this does not pretend to imply anything 
sanctified. The word "value" and cognate terms like "end," "stand- 
ard," or "aim" so often suggest qualities calculated to arouse re- 
spectful attention, e.g., absolute, fixed, not to say transcendental; 
but in line with our earlier attempted location of "end" within a 
natural ongoing process, such connotations are not allowable. For 
if values are the results of human choices made in a transaction 
involving the live creature and its environment, then their character 
must be found in that context and cannot legitimately be imposed 
from outside. An absolute, whether it be a value or anything else, 
means that which is outside any context. In a discussion of value, if 
not elsewhere, that kind of insulated and aloof position is peculiarly 
awkward. Indeed, any single standard for judging human choices, 
even a naturalistic and contextualistic one, will also find itself in 

Take, for example, the general criterion of survival by way of 
adaptation. Certainly there can be no question that without taking 
this into account nothing human has much meaning. Yet as the sole 
factor in constituting value, survival may well be a necessary con- 
dition but is hardly a sufficient single condition, since survival can 
be achieved in many ways. A similar demurrer can be addressed to 
another claimant to be the sole determiner of (naturalistic) value, the 
well-worn concept of "happiness." But, in the words of John 

If we still wish to make our peace with the past, and to sum up the 
plural and changing goods of life in a single word, doubtless the term 
happiness is the one most apt. But we should exchange free morals for 
sterile metaphysics, if we imagine that "happiness" is any less unique than 
the individuals who experience it; any less complex than the constitution 
of their capacities, or any less variable than the objects upon which their 
capacities are directed. 3 

Happiness means all things to all men and, consequently, cannot 
serve as an analytic term in ethics. 

}. John Dewey, Influence of Darwin on Philosophy, and Other Essays, pp. 
69-70. New York: Henry Holt & Co., 1910. 


Is the same true of "intelligence"? Here, of course, is the key 
.rord in the experimentalist philosophy. Can it also operate as the 
determining element in defining value? The question is particularly 
Important, since traditional value theory tends to underplay the role 
of intelligence, substituting for it something which can be regarded 
only as a variety of revelation, intuition, or a specialized moral sense. 
This problem of drawing a fine line between underestimating the 
function of intelligence, on the one hand, and elevating it out of 
all proportion, on the other, is a basic one, and it is unfortunate that 
a discussion of it cannot develop beyond the following allotted 

To put it abruptly, intelligence is a quality of an act and should 
be understood as an adverb or an adjective" rather than as a noun. It 
is the quality of discovering the connections behind our behavior 
and the consequences of that behavior. It is the quality that cements 
what otherwise would be fragmented parts of our experiepce and 
achieves a continuity and unity of experience without which man 
would simply not be man. This quality has been so typically and 
characteristically human, so clearly the differential which gives man 
his unique place in nature, that from Aristotle on it has been clas- 
sically delineated as the sinmmtm bonitm. Dewey himself has more 
than once celebrated so glowingly this attribute of intelligence (or 
reflective thinking, or critical inquiry, or reasoning, or whatever 
other term may be congenial) that not without cause has it come 
to be regarded as the core of the experimentalist theory of value. 4 

However, it would be a serious mistake to interpret the experi- 
mentalist interest in critical intelligence as simply an adding of one 
more item to the eternal catalogue of absolute goods. It is no 
hypostatized "Intelligence" which is worshiped, no "end in itself." 
To repeat, intelligence is the quality of relating ongoing activities to 
"ends ;in gfggT; "it" is. never nnrsidfi a.^.antexL--NQw, this should not 
lead toTmisconception at the opposite extreme, i.e., that intelligence 
is "merely" a means to some ulterior goal. This misses the point be- 
cause it assumes that ends and means are indeed separable. Without 
attempting to argue the matter, it may be stated baldly that to 
separate means from end is as sensible as to separate cause from effect. 

4. A further discussion of intelligence and reflective thinking will be found 
infra, pp. 154-62. 


In either case the transaction involved can be broken apart for 
analytical reasons but not otherwise. Indeed, the breaking of end 
from means is but one more example of the dualism that has plagued 
modern philosophy. There are vital distinctions here, to be sure, but 
instead of being between ends and means they are "between those 
modes of practice that are not intelligent, not inherently and im- 
mediately enjoyable, and those which are full of enjoyed meanings." 6 

In shoit, decisive as critical intelligence is in giving a unique char- 
acter to human activity, it still provides no single criterion for value. 
For human ends are plural, just as are human wants. This must be 
one of our primitive notions, one of our basic assumptions. Any other 
assumption would be to the effect of taking out of its context some 
solitary human consummation and arbitrarily elevating it as of 
supreme moment. There would be nothing new in such a procedure. 
In fact, that procedure could almost be regarded as a definition of 
morals. But it is a procedure that helps to make meaningless the rich- 
ness and variety which define experience, if not morals, and it has 
consequently contributed in giving "morals" the unctuous flavor so 
hard to overcome. 

That an approach like this lends itself to obvious misunderstanding 
and still more obvious censure very probably both goes without 
saying. All that can be done here is to suggest flatly and without 
adornment two lines of thought which may help correct the familiar 
charges so easily aroused by a position like this, charges such as that 
it provides nothing stable on which to base either ethics or education, 
that it must lead to a vicious relativity if not moral anarchy, that 
without standards either absolute or approaching it the way is open 
to justify any kind of activity however bizarre or perverse. One of 
the lines of thought intended to answer these objections will return 
us to the role of intelligence as a process of freeing and directing 
men's activities. These activities, we have insisted, are plural. How- 
ever, we still intend to take evolution seriously. If that is done, then 
the concept of growth emerges, a concept (even if it be a familiar 
one) central to the experimentalist philosophy of value and of edu- 
cation. Now, if there is genuine meaning in the phrase "end in itself," 

5. John Dewey, Experience and Nature, p. 358. La Salle, Illinois: Open Court 
Publishing Co., 1926. It should be added that Dewey's An and Experience is a 
brilliant development of what he intends by "enjoyed meanings." 


then for education as well as for all life such an end must tie up 
with the concept of continuous growth. Actually the phrase has 
little real meaning, since no end can be divorced from the means 
which achieve it, just as no effect can be an effect without a cause. 
This is indeed why the idea of growth is a central one, for it almost 
automatically cuts across any block between ends and means. Growth 
cannot be a means to any ulterior end except more growth; the 
same holds for life itself, and for education. The very concepts of 
life and growth imply continuity. They are teleological only in this 
sense of continuity which is exactly what evolution means. Nor 
is it a cogent objection to say that some particular kind of growth or 
of life or education is morally preferable to another as an end. Such 
an objection would indicate that the whole point has been missed. 
For the growth and life and education which are being underlined 
in an approach like this are assumed to be full and symmetrical. It 
is partial and distorted growth alone which must be rejected. Edu- 
cation for crime or for sadistic persecution means growth which 
checks other growth in both the individual and the group; life 
that is parasitic is the frustration of other life. Growth must signify 
growth in general, a continuum of growth. 

The second line of thought is in opposition to (at least the naive 
interpretation of) cultural relativism. That human wants are plural 
does not preclude a sociopsychological uniformity among them nor 
the establishment of the public and experimentally determined basic 
conditions necessary for their fulfilment. The idea of shared, inter- 
personal behavior has become almost the hallmark of modern psy- 
chology. To say that no single criterion of value can be set up is not 
to say that there can be only moral anarchy and that anything goes. 
The integrating and transactional concepts of biopsychic growth and 
of the sociopsychological field point the way to value criteria, 
plural but not nihilistic. This whole area is fast becoming one of the 
most fruitful in psychological and anthropological research, the 
significant work in values by Kluckhohn and his associates at Har- 
vard being only one of many examples. 

Experimentalist Approach to Educational Problems 
A discussion like this of what may be called the general nature 
of values or ends demands illustration, not simply to make it specific 

G I G R 149 

but actually to help define the position. The following several ap- 
plications, then, to educational problems are not of the order of try- 
ing out a recipe but rather of helping to formulate certain observa- 
tions about pluralism, growth, and the use of intelligence. 

Changing Conceptions of Means and Ends in Education. Certainly 
one obvious area of application has been the modern history of edu- 
cational experiment based, as it has clearly been, on the presupposi- 
tion thatfTeclucation must be free to change. Commonplace as this 
may sound and overworked as the modish term "dynamic" may be, 
the concept of educational flexibility and the innumerable ways in 
which it has helped to reconstruct the school in the last half -century, 
stand as testimony to a truly revolutionary cultural force "re- 
volutionary" because it has been a demonstration against the hyp- 
notic power of absolute, monolithic aims and methods. That a 
desperate counterrevolution is now in progress can hardly have been 

This does not imply that other philosophies of education do not 
accept change, too; nor does it mean that experimentalism any more 
than other philosophies would settle for change just for the sake of 
change, any old change. What would seem crucial here, as in the 
preceding discussion of value, is where the change is to be located. 
It would seem evident that traditional views of education (and 
philosophy) limit change to means only. This seems clearly indicated 
by familiar talk about "closing the gap," "holding up standards," 
"going back to fundamentals." But experimentalism cannot see this 
clean dichotomy between ends and means. "Ends in view," when 
reached, become means in a continuing serial process. "Ends in view" 
that can never be reached but function only as absolute, unattain- 
able ideals would seem at best Pickwickian. Change can be con- 
trolled and meaningful only if ends, like means, are free to change. 
Any other interpretation is but reaffirmation of the very discon- 
tinuity that experimentalism is pledged to challenge. . 

Democracy in Education. Equally revolutionary and equally con- 
sistent with the philosophy of intelligently directed pluralistic 
growth is the assumption that all men and women are educable. Not 
educable in exactly the same wayTpThey do not all have to become, 
for example, obscure disciples of Saint Thomas. Education signifies 
growth, the development and socializing of human capacities. It goes 


far beyond simply the acquiring of intellectual graces; it is certainly 
not confined to formal training and the school. Human capacities will 
differ in quality and quantity, but each individual, this assumption 
would maintain, must be given full opportunity to exploit himself 
and his environment so that he actually does grow. If not, there is a 
break in evolutionary continuity and human powers are unnaturally 
deflected. Indeed, this is not a new assumption at all, but rather a 
corollary or an extension of the still more basic premise of con- 
tinuity, for educability here can mean only the full and symmetrical 
development of the human forces evolution has thrown into action. 
Were men regarded as fundamentally uneducable, then organic 
d/Vcontinuity should be our fundamental concept. 

The opportunities for growth will not be found just lying around. 
A passive, laissez-faire attitude on the part of society toward the op- 
portunities which alone can bring about all-over human growth is 
dangerously shortsighted. The stimuli to human development have 
to be actively and deliberately provided. Which means more than 
universal literacy, even at the high-school level It means, to be 
specific, that no one be prevented by financial reasons alone from 
continuing his formal education at the college and university level. 
At least half of the best-equipped high-school graduates cannot now 
afford to continue their education. 

But an education directed by the strategy of providing opportuni- 
ties to enlarge the life of the common man must go far beyond even 
universal liberal education for all who are capable of it 6 and far be- 
yond the idea merely of providing leaders. It must develop, among 
other directions, along the lines of "adult education," a phrase which 
conceals in a casual and elliptical way the most electric of qualities. 
There is dynamite in the idea that the education (growth) of the 
adult is limited only by his needs and his capacities. Among his bio- 
logical and social wants are the satisfaction of curiosity, the sense of 
accomplishment, the feel of creativeness, the need for self-expres- 
sionin a word, the entire expansion of consciousness. So often these 
wants are now deflected into bizarre and stultifying vulgarities pre- 
cisely because "education" has abdicated in favor of radio and 
television. Not by leisure but by the cultivation of leisure can men 
grow. Therefore, education for the citizen must aim to enrich the 

6. This topic of liberal education will be returned to in the following section. 


free rime that the march of technology seems to promise (assuming, 
of course, the gradual solution of basic economic and political ques- 
tions). This is not to be interpreted as regimentation or discipline 
or some first devious step to cultural totalitarianism. What is in- 
tended here is jthat men must be granted at least the chance to em- 
ploy their free time creatively and f ruitf ully and not be delivered by 
default to the tender mercies of comic strip and pulp fiction, soap 
operas, gigantic orgies of professionalized sports and entertainment, 
all presided over by the advertising impressario. Instead, encourage- 
ment of artistic talents, appreciation of great music and literature, 
introduction to the fascination of science and philosophy, cultiva- 
tion of hobbies, training in the handicrafts these are but a sample 
of the paths possible, and already being traversed by the more en- 
lightened labor unions, municipal adult-education centers, university 
extension services, not to mention the whole tradition of the folk- 
school movement. Whether government at the national level in this 
country will be allowed to contribute to this kind of development 
is a moot question. It will be remembered that the depression of the 
1930's saw the experiment of various government-sponsored WPA 
art projects, including the beginnings of a federal theater. It was a 
tragedy of no small dimension that this whole idea was finally 
abandoned, not simply because it was a frill but because, in some 
peculiar manner, it seemed a menace to the American way of life. 

It is revolutionary to regard people, all people, as educable. The 
kind of education required depends on their needs and wants, on 
what is lacking in their all-round symmetrical growth. Promoting 
that growth would, indeed, be democracy in education. 

The Meaning of Liberal Education. There is, moreover, a special 
category of educability which has come in for an almost extrav- 
agant amount of attention in recent years. It is that of "liberal" 
education, especially at the college and university level. I say "ex- 
travagant" because the discussion has sometimes had the effect of 
suggesting that this is the only kind of education worth discussing 
(which is no more than a conceit of college professors). Even to 
broach the topic is to risk being inundated, and at the very outset, 
for the definition of liberal education is itself the issue. Taking 
the risk, we can ask: If the "liberated" individual is the aim of 
liberal (liberating) education, what is he free from and what is he 


free for? That he be free of the closed mind, of the intolerance of 
ignorance, and of the dominance of the specious present would seem 
obvious to the point of banality; But that he be free to change pres- 
ent society because he can observe it critically and from a historical 
perspective, change it in the direction of providing those conditions 
without which a liberated individual cannot grow and realize his 
capacities this may seem irrelevant, at least to the purist. Yet ex- 
perimentalism would have to settle for some such interpretation of 
the place of liberal education in our culture. 7 For if change, edu- 
cability, and growth are the basic concepts in all education, then 
that area called "liberal" indeed, especially because it is called 
liberalcannot be set off on some island alone. 

Nor can liberal education be simply content with efforts to pre- 
serve the past; it must take the lead in understanding, criticizing, 
and directing cultural change. That knowledge of the past con- 
tributes mightily to an understanding of the present is indubitable, 
and the present interpretation takes full account of it. But that 
the .past be cultivated for its own sake is something else again. It 
is present culture, not past, which is our problem. This does not 
signify that the more conservative view of liberal education is un- 
concerned with present-day problems. But it would appear that the 
specter of discontinuity haunts the traditionalist here as elsewhere. 
Apparently he would prepare the adolescent by steeping him in his- 
torical materials of classic dimensions, and in the grand style, and 
then turn him loose, as an adult, on modern problems. The experi- 
mentalist reverses the emphasis and { uses contemporary issues that 
demand drawing on the thought and experience of the past, hoping 
thereby to maintain historical and logical continuity. To illustrate, 
it was their own "present culture" that produced the Great Books 
which, we are advised in some circles, must now constitute the core 
of liberal education; but it is concentration on "needed change in 
the world" which will now produce more great books. To argue that 
the study of Great Books is the only way contemporary questions 
can be understood and met is, at best, pedantry and, at worst (as in 
the obscurantism of Mortimer Adler), a bald apologia for medieval 

7. For a development of this argument, see the stimulating treatment in 
A.. D. Henderson's Vitalizing Liberal Education. New York: Harper & Bros., 



The directing of liberal education toward the solution of con- 
temporary problems can be regarded as limited or illiberal only if 
those problems are misunderstood. For "contemporary problems" 
include nothing less than war and peace, i.e., extinction or survival, 
as well as the extension of a democratic ethic, the place of scientific 
intelligence in solving problems, the development of aesthetic ap- 
preciation as far as man's capacities will allow, the scrutiny of 
economic and political institutions the horizons are unlimited. These 
are not "social problems" in some parochial sense. They are com- 
prehensive enough to include even a discussion of the function of 
the humanities! But to circumscribe liberal education by refusing it 
any other office than that of considering the place of the classics 
is a crippling limitation. It would be turned toward the cultivation 
of "gentlemen" in the invidious sense. 

That concern with the present is illiberal is of a piece with the 
idea that "vocational" education presents the grand antithesis: Here 
is the illiberal bogey always available for drubbing. Now, it is very 
easy to sneer at the alleged vocationalizing of much modern educa- 
tion. Lofty contempt for practical subjects is the watermark of too 
many self-defined scholars. The examples chosen are calculated to 
get a laugh pie-making, camp leadership, window-cleaning, pre- 
pharmacy, salesmanship. Certainly there will be no apology here 
for the evident abuses of . overvocationalism in many sections of pres- 
ent-day education. But to assume that training for making a living 
has no place in liberal education is to assume that education has 
no context. It is to make the pleasantly superior assumption that 
college is a place to spend four happy years immaculately preserved 
from contamination with the outside, a sort of unruptured chrysalis 
in which ivy can be enjoyed, green lawns trod, and precious books 
read, a refuge and vacation from a naughty world. It is also to 
assume that preparation for the law, 8 for selling bonds, for literary 
pursuits, for private preparatory-school teaching, or for corporation 
management is somehow not vocational. Veblen could find no better 
example of invidious comparison than this! 

Genuine vocational education goes far beyond the caricaturish 
limitations imposed on it by the educational elite and by the "gen- 

8. Preliminary studies of recent graduates of the college that teaches only the 
Great Books seem to indicate that the boys favor law schools when they get 


teel tradition." From the earliest years of an individual through the 
latest ones to be served by an expanding program of adult education, 
there can be a "vocational" approach which will exploit every pos- 
sible device for making men think, for making them sensitive to 
authentic and imperative problems, for enriching the making of a liv- 
ing so that it becomes more than a casually neglected instrument. 
This enlargement will unquestionably employ great books but they 
will be fitted into a situation and will not carry their situation around 
with them as a turtle does its house. 

The Educational Processes: Motivation and Methods 
The preceding discussion skirted, but only with great difficulty, 
the place of "thinking" in liberal education. When one talks about 
the aims and values of education, especially higher education, it is 
impossible not to consider at the same time the role played by the 
cultivation of "intelligence," "critical inquiry," "reason," as such an 
aim or value. Nor would it be possible to enter any kind of caveat or 
veto when such legitimately praiseworthy terms are introduced 
(particularly in a book on philosophy). But the weaning of words 
like these needs to be explored, for certainly they are not self- 

The trouble is that when the neorationalist in educationhe, say, 
of the Hutchins school talks of "reason" and "thinking" he rarely 
troubles to say exactly what he intends by them. The words are 
thrown at us like eternal absolutes, ignorance of which must con- 
stitute a mortal sin. We are given, say, a typical and now familiar 
statement like this: "If education is rightly understood, it will be 
understood as the cultivation of the intellect. The cultivation of the 
intellect is the same good for all men in all societies. . . ." What 
Hutchins intends by such a pronunciamento about the higher learn- 
ing in America seems to be that "intellect" is something like the 
pure reason basic to the philosophies of Plato, Aristotle, and Aquinas. 
It is a register of eternal truth and reality. It can be disciplined 
through dialectic. It is, above all, a refuge from the relativism stem- 
ming (allegedly) from contemporary worship of science and an 
escape from the frantic and pragmatic improvisation which (alleged- 
ly) dominates not only our education but our entire culture. 
It is quite late in the day to be reminded that thinking may be 


something other than the cataleptic seizure of metaphysical truth. 
Thinking as problem-solving is now so familiar in both psychological 
exposition and scientific practice and methodology that it is dif- 
ficult to see how anything new can be said about it. Moreover, a 
general statement of the position was made earlier in our discussion 
of the problems of knowledge. Perhaps, then, the most economical 
handling of the question is simply (a) to state what is meant by 
thinking as problem-solving; (b) to describe the characteristics of 
reflective thinking; and (c) to suggest the implications, moral and 
educational, which may follow. 

Thinking as Problem-solving. To speak about "thinking" in an 
educational context is clearly to speak about reflective thinking. 
The term "thinking" is, of course, so broad as to mean literally 
anything which goes on in our heads. There is nothing wrong about 
unreflective or autistic thinking, such as daydreaming, wishful think- 
ing, imagination, rationalization, or "mere" believing; but it is simply 
not talked about by most educators. (This may or may not be a 
serious limitation in any discussion about thinking.) The problem, 
then, is why all our conscious life is not confined to unreflective 
fantasy and habit. Certainly they are less trouble. No one has to 
urge us to daydream or to follow custom. But we do have to be 
counseled to thinkreflectively. It is assumed to be hard work, even 
unpleasant. So, some stimulus would seem to be indicated to account 
for the challenge to fantasy, authority, and habit; thinking in the 
honorific sense calls for a psychological origin and a natural history. 

The most plausible hypothesis would be that we think (and from 
now on the qualifier "reflective" is being understood) when we have 
to think, and we have to think or, at least, are tempted to when 
we are confronted with a problem, when some difficulty forces us 
out of our customary and easier ways of responding. Perplexity, 
doubt, indecision these look like the very creators of human 
thought. Without them, there would be no real occasion to stop 
daydreaming or to suspect habit and authority; neither would there 
be any reason to continue thinking when it became arduous. Prob- 
lems not only provide the initial impetus but direct and steady the 
course of thinking and set up the goal of each process, namely, the 
solution of the difficulty which stimulated it. Almost any event can 
act as a motivator of thinking. Whatever sets us to doubting what 


up to then had been taken for granted is a potential activator, 
although we must realize that a problem situation will not auto- 
matically coerce us to think. Doubts can be resolved by flipping a 
coin or by continuing our usual habit patterns. The opportunity to 
think can always be passed over. Thinking may depend upon a 
problem, but all problems do not force us to think. Many of them 
can be met and handled by blind, impulsive, conditioned behavior. 
But this is less likely when men are confronted with genuine prob- 

A genuine problem is found illustrated in what is now a classic 
example, John Dewey's "forked-road" situation. Simple and homely, 
it nevertheless contains all the essential elements of a genuine prob- 
lem. Those elements are to the effect of establishing what William 
James called a "real, live option," namely, a situation where there are 
incompatible alternatives between which decision must be made. 
We cannot take both forks of the road, at least not at the same 
time, and we must take one. With such a forced option confronting 
us, a premium is put upon the transforming of unreflective conduct 
into reflective. Problems can range from that of a broken shoelace to 
the choice of a profession or to a decision about martyrdom or to 
the most abstruse of speculative riddles. Anything which breaks in 
upon our routine experience and forces us to make a choice be- 
tween truly disjunctive alternatives can prod us to thought (al- 
though, as mentioned before, even such a choice will not force us to 
undertake reflective thinking). But what are the characteristics of 
reflective activity? How is it different from unreflective? 

Before touching on that, there is a significant addition to be made 
to this hypothesis of problem-solving. In the more recent vocabu- 
lary of his Logic, Dewey speaks of the "indeterminate situation" in- 
stead of a "problematic" one. The change is not one concerned 
essentially with felicity of expression. Instead, it is directed to 
pointing out that a doubtful situation is not simply doubtful in a 
psychological sense. The situation itself is not completely deter- 
minate. That is why there is a problem and why we have doubts. 
If subjective doubt were not in some way related to an existential 
situation, it would be to that degree pathological. It is the situation 
itself which is to be unified, integrated, resolved. And the reflective 
(scientific) means through which that result is to be brought about 


arc themselves operations interacting physically with the objective 
field. Any other "resolution" of an indeterminate situation is "men- 
tal" in the pejorative sense. Such an interpretation would point back 
to a preceding discussion of "knowledge as contemplation," for it 
challenges the idea that reality is never indeterminate, i.e., that it 
is fixedly impervious to change or manipulation. It also points 
ahead to one of the major characteristics of reflective thinking, that 
it indeed is engaged in solving a problem, that it gets things done. 

The Nature of Reflective Thinking. This factor of operative 
quality is a decisive criterion for separating reflective from un- 
reflective thought. Daydreaming and reverie do manage, of course, 
to kill time; in that, perhaps they are operative. But really they have 
no work to do. Fancy is for its own sake: It is "autistic." It is not 
going anywhere; as such, it solves no problems. Now, to repeat 
an earlier point, there is nothing disgraceful about this. Considering 
the recognized significance of consummatory experiences, fantasy 
is assumed to be necessary for a complete life. It is simply different 
from thinking as we are now discussing it. True, daydreams and 
reverie, the free play of the imagination, can easily lead to sug- 
gestions which do remove difficulties. Yet, that is incidental. If it 
does become deliberate and actionable, then, almost by definition, 
unreflcctive thinking turns into reflective. At the same time, if the 
process has been successful, the objective situation itself, that en- 
vironmental field which includes both organism and its surroundings, 
is also rearranged as it is in any scientific experimental situation. 
That is, in its operative aspects, scientific method is the very distilla- 
tion of reflective thought, its most refined and exemplary model. 

The characteristic of being operative is not unique or confined to 
reflective thinking. Habit can remove difficulties, too; it is indeed 
operative, sometimes too much so. We tend to draw conclusions 
without thinking about them. Therefore, a second characteristic 
must be added, that of being critical. By this is meant roughly the 
reflective quality of not taking things for granted, of refusing to 
act automatically every time there is a problem situation. To be 
critical means to question authority and habit, to examine experience 
before using it. Here is an attitude of seeing alternatives, of con- 
sidering pros and cons; an attitude which tends to inhibit impul- 
sive action if there is the possibility of doing something else. 


These two characteristics of reflective thinking lead to a third. 
For if thinTang implies! problem-solving action, and, at the same time,, 
critical appraisal of action, there is introduced a period of delayed 
response. The word "reflection" itself carries the connotation of 
suspense of judgment, of introduction of a time interval before a 
reaction is effected. The quantitative element of time is not sig- 
nificant. The delay may vary from only a fraction of a second to 
one of many years. It is the qualitative or functional aspect of delay 
that is characteristic of reflective thinking. The first thing which 
suggests itself is not immediately put into operation. Several alterna- 
tive reactions are examined and a decision is then made. Of course, 
the reflective attitude can become a caricature everyone knows the 
story of the philosophic donkey placed equidistantly between two 
equally succulent bales of hay. But however caricaturish its extreme 
may become, delayed reaction is the most characteristically human 
of attributes, the very differential that helps to define man. To ex- 
plain this factor of delay would be equally to explain the cortical 
and linguistic marvels which make possible the entire dimension 
of human thought. 

Educational Outcomes of Reflective Thinking. Before turning to 
the moral and education implications which may be found in this 
description of reflective thinking, it should be recalled that the 
present discussion stemmed from the over-all question of the role 
of thinking in education. The neorationalist seems merely to cele- 
brate what he calls reason and thinking and to take for granted their 
educational priority; the above pages have been an effort, however 
elementary, at definition or at least description of what is intended 
by an august term like "thinking." They also have been to the effect 
of questioning the notion that thinking is self-contained and aloof, 
to be approached only with a classical talisman or literary open- 
sesame. As a method of handling problems, rather than as a "thing," 
thinking is an integral part of a situation and cannot intelligently be 
discussed when it is removed from the situation. For problems are 
specific, and^so are the relevant techniques for meeting them. There 
is, indeed, a common attitude the reflective or scientific attitude 
at the root of all bona fide thinking, but there is no monolithic 
"thought" which is, say, the only proper subject of liberal education. 
Intelligent inquiry is something to be analyzed and identified as it 

G E I G E R 159 

works; it is not simply the subject of commendation. It has a natural 
history which needs to be traced but does not have a ritual which 
must be performed. To understand thinking is to understand the 
problem which demands solution (which would be still another 
argument for the widest kind of orientation for liberal education). 

The common attitude mentioned just now is not a neutral one, 
morally epicene. Implicit in the characteristics of reflective thinking 
are educational values of the widest-reaching sort. Perhaps the most 
significant of them is to be found in that complex of qualities asso- 
ciated with the reflective factors of critical caution and of delayed 
reaction. More important than any particular routine of scientific 
experiment or of thoughtful behavior is a general spirit, a temper 
of mind that of reliance on tentativeness, hypothesis, and the con- 
cept of probable error"/ Here is a way of considering problems which 
may well constitute the unique contribution that scientific method 
(which, to repeat, is the model of reflective thinking) is to make to 
modern culture. It certainly is a unique contribution to modern edu- 

It is not sweetness and light which recommends as a top value 
the truly liberal attitude of tolerance and disenchantment with 
dogma. It is the necessity to adjust and to survive. No other attitude 
can equip man to deal with the dramatic changes in his experience 
which each year brings forth. Were reason as illiberally fixed and 
absolute as some of its celebrants maintain, it could never accom- 
modate itself either to the revolutionary impact of technology or 
what is more important to the kind of world which allows tech- 
nology to make an impact. That is simply to say, a nature which 
has produced intelligence as a powerful adaptive force must also 
be a nature in which such a force can operate. A rigid, unchanging, 
iron block of a universe would need only instinct and habit as 
adjustive accommodations; a fantastic, whirling, completely undeter- 
mined world would put a premium on chance, impulse, and im- 
provisation. The setting in which man finds himself is neither, 
although a little of each: precarious and contingent, yet it is amen- 
able to law and prediction; pliant and inflexible, it yields to the 
efforts of rational control while it still resists them. This is to be 
expected, if evolution is taken seriously; failure to adjust would be 
as fatal to men as to dinosaurs. This is why experimentalism would 


hope to institutionalize habits of tentative and self-correcting in- 
quiry) and why an experimentalist theory of education could never 
be content with teaching which conformed only to the past and to 
the unchanging. A statement prepared by Professor Lawrence G. 
Thomas is quoted in this connection. 

This is the philosophical setting for many of the key principles of 
progressive education. For example, the conception of evolutionary change 
as being purpose-generating, rather than being purposely preplanned, 
means that educational aims as well as content should be continually re- 
fashioned for a particular society in a particular place and for a particular 
time. Since the need for thinking arises primarily from problems of per- 
sonal adjustment, the emphasis of education should be on helping students 
to live happily and well, here and now, while preparation for the future 
receives secondary consideration as a by-product of these satisfying ex- 
periences. This conception of thinking also affects the way in which 
learning is conceived. Thus, whatever motivates the learner's efforts de- 
fines the actual learning goal that is being sought by him. The learner's 
purpose in knowing becomes a constituent of the object known. Con- 
sequently, the primary concerns and emphases of the teacher are similarly 
affected. The learning goals of the class should be developed by the 
teacher and the students in co-operation rather than fixed in advance by 
the teacher, even though goals developed in this manner may often be 
unpredictable. Then, as the students achieve increased skill in defining 
their purposes and estimating the subject matter required for their fulfil- 
ment, they should participate increasingly in selecting curriculum ma- 
terials, making their own assignments, and evaluating their progress. Any 
subject matter, even though favored by the teacher, which cannot qualify 
as having significant, functional value in the eyes of the students is either 
not important to teach them or is inappropriate to their present level of 

At this point a demurrer needs to be entered against a familiar 
libel on the tentative spirit, i.e., that it signifies only indecision and 
vacillation, the hallmark of a tired liberalism. To rely on probability 
and tentativeness is to risk being accused of sitting on the fence or 
of standing with "both feet firmly planted in mid-air," of seeing 
both sides of the question and so being blind to either, of developing 
into such a split personality that one cannot possibly make up his 
mind on anything decisive. That these results may have happened in 
certain cases cannot be denied, nor is the present argument an 
apology for tired liberals or nonliberals. But it is a contention that 
the alleged tie-up between tentativeness and paralyzing indecision 


is a travesty and a caricature, repudiated by the entire history of 
reflective behavior. For one thing, it must be remembered that 
a prime characteristic of thinking is its problem-solving character. 
If it were not actionable and did not get things done, it would 
simply not be what we have in mind. It would then be merely 
"reflection" in the donkey-story sense. If this is simply a theoretical 
defense, it may be added that the history of science indicates that 
nearly every significant advance it has made was originally projected 
along lines that, at the outset, were no more than provisional, even 
makeshift. To require certainty before action contravenes the very 
sequence of scientific method. It would contradict the meaning of 
hypothesis itself, for the nature of hypothesis is precisely that it 
be both provisional and predictive. When was a one-hundred-to- 
nothing chance demanded before experiment be performed? 

The accusation that uncertainty precludes action rests, of course, 
on the assumption that unless there be absolute certainty nothing 
can be done. It need not be added that this is clearly the basic as- 
sumption of all brands of totalitarianism, left or right, secular or 
religious. Unless there be an almost mystical unanimity on doctrine, 
political and moral action is undermined. Toleration can only get in 
the way. On this basis we must continue to mistake prejudice for 
eternal truth and to see no reason for doing anything about our 
beliefs except assert them still more loudly, which is the very 
antithesis of reflective conduct. The modesty which comes with 
knowledge makes action intelligent; it does not stop it. To misquote 
Bertrand Russell a little we may conclude: To teach how to live 
without certainty, and yet without being paralyzed by hesitation,, 
is perhaps the chief goal of education in our day. A statement pre- 
pared by Professor Thomas is quoted here. 

The consequence of this view for education in moral behavior is to 
place the emphasis on honest, careful deliberation before action, rather 
than on cbnformance to set standards or on merely good intentions'.'* The 
traditional moral standards in our culture are to be presented as hypoth- 
esesthe leading or most promising hypotheses, to be sure, when they 
have a long history of success in promoting satisfying human adjustments 
to be examined and tested deliberatively in solving the present prob- 
lems of students. Each person learns moral responsibility to the extent that 
he can normally predict and deliberately intend the consequences, on 
himself and the lives of others, of pursuing his own purposes. The test of 


effectual deliberation, as well as the resources for its improvement, lies 
in action. Hence, each person should learn to evaluate his action in terms 
of whether its consequences are more completely and lastingly satisfying 
to him than the probable results of possible alternative actions. This evalu- 
ation is not impulsive or whimsical or narrow; it is reflective, deliberative, 
taking all relevant factors into account. No deliberation is so good that it 
foresees accurately all the consequences of possible courses of action, so 
action is necessary to improve the quality of the next deliberation. Among 
groups, such as a class in school, the authority for right and wrong con- 
duct and the sanctions for securing right conduct should result from a 
co-operative, deliberative effort involving a consensus of all the people 
involved, including the children. This kind of authority is relatively 
tentative but ever improvable, and makes growth in moral responsibility 
a central dimension of education. 

One final point needs to be made at the close of this discussion on 
the place of thinking in education. It is that the present criticism of 
reason as contemplation is in no sense a criticism iibcrhaupt of "con- 
templation." As consummately and aesthetic, whatever it may be 
called, the act of being arrested by some incandescent moment of 
experience is an ultimate in any man's philosophy. If the critics of 
pragmatism and experimentalism do not grasp this, they cannot have 
read (or understood) John Dewey's Art as Experience. Nor can 
they have assimilated his contention "that art the mode of activity 
that is charged with meanings capable of immediately enjoyed pos- 
sessionis the complete culmination of nature, and that 'science' is 
properly a handmaiden that conducts natural events to this happy 
issue." 9 But what is not acceptable to the experimentalist is the idea 
that all experience is a mode of knowing. This is "intellectualism" 
in the unwelcome sense. It is the familiar spectator theory of knowl- 
edge outlined and challenged earlier. But, as Dewey puts it, things 
are had before (and after) they are known. Knowing is an instru- 
mental process of adjustment, not a mirror-image. It originates in 
and returns to the immediate and consummatory closures of non- 
cognitive experience. Which is not to deny that the act of cognition 
itself can be such a consummatory experience. Science can also be 
an art. So, contemplation as the cognitive act which is itself the 
focus of experience is quite another thing from "contemplation" as 
a symbol of the final deliverance of an integrated experience. To 

9. Dcwcy, Experience and Nature, op. cit., p. 358. 


celebrate this is not "intellectualism" but simply a recognition of 
what is elemental and indubitable. 

Relation of the School to Society and the Individual 
The concepts of society and individual and their relations to the 
school can possibly be handled together, not simply for reasons of 
economy of space but because it is theoretically impossible to sep- 
arate them. In fact, what seems to be the unquestionable division 
between individual and society may well be a signal illustration of 
that cultural dualism we had occasion to refer to at the beginning 
of this chapter. This thought needs to be developed a little. 

Education as a Social Function. It would be a serious misunder- 
standing, not to say a caricature, to interpret the above paragraph 
as a slighting of the laudable connotations surrounding "individuali- 
ty" in ethics and education. Any such slighting would be an affecta- 
tion, if not a sign of obtuseness. But what is being questioned here 
is the dichotomy which sets up the individual as an independent 
entity distinct from another entity, society. Their relationship is 
seen sometimes as opposition, sometimes as co-operation; so, two 
polar forces are postulated to account for human change change 
from within versus change from without. Or, in Arthur Koestler's 
phrase, the yogi or the commissar. Once the split has been formu- 
lated, and especially if it has become institutionalized, one becomes 
engaged in the industry of showing how "interaction" can overcome 
it interaction, that is, between elements which have been persistently 
regarded as exclusively "individual" or "social." When such inter- 
action between a disinfected personality and an omnivorous society 
fails and disillusion follows, then the danger of turning wholehearted- 
ly to the yogi or to the commissar becomes that much more real. 
These alternatives, of course, have been presented too stringently. 
There would probably be few all-out defenders of either position. 
Nor, possibly, would there be too much objection to the substitution 
of "transaction" for "interaction." Nevertheless, these are no straw- 
man concepts being set up. Too often the terms individual and so- 
ciety are merely abstractions having little or no referential signifi- 
cance. This is certainly the case when the terms are thought to have 
a fixed meaning and to refer to entities with an independent status, 
so that society comes to be regarded as a thing-in-itself, having its 


own values as over against those of the individual; and individuality 
comes to be understood as a prime example of splendid isolation, 
unmoved by what goes on without. This would be comparable to 
singling out one blade in the cutting transaction of a pair of scissors. 

Yet having said this, one must go on to say that the idea of trans- 
action, important as it is, should not obscure a pattern still more 
important. Which is that\te sociocultural environment be credited 
(or debited) with providing the conditions under which individuals 
are indeed formed? George Mead's thesis about the self, now being 
rediscovered by the interpersonal psychologists and others, needs 
to be looked at again by the teacher. The thesis of a self and mind 
being formed by the agency of social forces through the technique 
of language symbol-making is one which puts a premium on the 
means for reaching the individual. It underscores the idea that social 
and educational devices alone can move, develop, and even create 
moral individuals. It is only when we turn our backs upon the notion 
of a preciously insulated individual with his allegedly impregnable 
nature and inaccessible feelings that anything like ethical control and 
prediction become possible. The individual can be touched by meta- 
physics alone; specific individuals are moved by specific social and 
educational situations. 

Educational Potentialities and Responsibility of the Individual. But 
this "conception of education as a social process and function has 
no definite meaning until we define the kind of society we have in 
mind." 10 Fortunately, the presuppositions and processes of the so- 
ciety Dewey and the experimentalists have in mind have already 
appeared in our earlier discussion of certain educational presupposi- 
tions and processes, namely, those of growth, of universal educabili- 
ty, and of thinking as unbuttoned rather than genteel. If there is any 
basic assumption or primitive notion which is f oundational for social 
democracy as well as for democratic education, it must be one which 
affirms the value of the realization of individual potentialities Surely, 
you mean the realization of only "good" potentialities, don't you? 
This query was considered before in the context of "growth in 
general." In that context, "good" potentialities can refer only to 
those which permit the maximum development of a personality, 

10. John Dcwey, Democracy and Education, p. 112. New York: Macmillan 
Co., 1916. 


which do not inhibit fulfilment of other capacities. Now, it would 
be a sign of egregious naivet to think that a statement like this is 
a recipe or a formula to be applied as a poultice is applied. The 
over-all realization of potentialities, to repeat, is a basic assumption 
or orientation which sets the framework of a democratic ethic and 
of a democratic education; it is the "respect for the individual per- 
son" referred to in the opening chapter of this yearbook. As such it 
is, of course, a maxim and so no substitue for the realistic recogni- 
tion that in even the most normal of individuals there is always a 
conflict of drives which has to be resolved somehow. In what ways 
can it be resolved? 

The alternatives proposed in the opening chapter are as clear as 
any. Each person can be left entirely alone to work out his own 
solutionexcept that no person is ever entirely alone. He is at least 
the victim of the newsstand, the radio, and the television, and his 
tastes and basic resources are too often established for him. Or he 
can be patronized and given what is clearly good for him except 
that he always will resist what is good for him. Or he can truly be 
educated which means that he learn "to choose more responsibly 
what he wants to do in a social setting with the fullest regard for 
the consequences." This third alternative is so much the more dif- 
ficult and challenging one that it is a wonder it is seriously enter- 
tained. Yet it is the only one which makes sense, at any rate in terms 
of the basic postulate of experimentalist education. That there is a 
calculated risk of failure, that the nicest kind of balance needs to 
be maintained between individually-tested conclusions on the one 
hand and those stemming from social experience on the other, that 
the authoritarian and the laissez-faire alternatives are much more 
comfortable for the educator these must go without saying. Never- 
theless, if there is any educational merit in concepts like growth and 
development of critical intelligence; if there is any moral and po- 
litical strength in our often too casual remarks about respect for the 
person; indeed, if there is any real tie-in of philosophy to education, 
then the risks need to be taken and the uncomfortable and precarious 
equilibrium must be striven for. If not, education abdicates its re- 
sponsibility or turns into animal training. 

The Place of Controversial Issues in Popular Education. There is 
the same calculated risk of failure in opening up the field of con- 


troversial social issues, the same uncertain balance between com- 
placency and rootlessness. But, again, unless educators are willing 
to claim either irresponsibility or the power to condition rigidly, 
the risk and the insecurity must be accepted. Now, if one may be 
abrupt about it (at least to save time), the assumption will be made 
that, in general, there has been introduced into American education 
an acceptance of the abstract idea that economic and political prob- 
lems, even of the most debatable nature, can be discussed freely. 
If this is a poorly supported assumption, then there is little point in 
a book like this. However, it cannot necessarily be assumed as a 
practice in American education that there is free discussion of spe- 
cific issues, say, Marxism and Russian communism. Since this topic 
raises questions which are definitely in the foreground today, espe- 
cially in higher education, it will be used here as the focus of the 

Two distinct aspects of the problem can be considered separately, 
(a) should Marxism and Russian communism (which are definitely 
not the same thing) be made available to students, and (b) should 
Communists be permitted to teach in our schools? 

The Teaching of Communism in American Schools. Here I should 
like to be able to make an assumption similar to one above, i.e., that 
any economic and political question can be discussed freely; un- 
fortunately, this would probably be an overstated assumption. If it 
is, then the following argument needs to be addressed (not to the 
so-called liberals who do not need it, but) to those who regard the 
school as dispenser and defender of vested, accepted ideas, to those 
who would accept neither what Brubacher calls the romantic nor 
the left-wing branches (see chap, i) of progressive education. The 
argument must be stated peremptorily, in a summary fashion and 
even vulgarly pragmatic, for if educators are not yet convinced on 
this point, it is very late in the day to try to persuade them. It is 
the most blunt and opportunistic defense of freedom of expression, 
one going back long before John Stuart Mill to John Milton and 
John Locke, a defense on grounds which are neither sentimental, 
nor absolutistic, nor even a matter of "rights;" it is simply a matter 
of shrewd prudence. If we are against something, we must know 
what it is we are against. That's all there is to it. No debate team 
ever walked on a platform knowing only one side of the question. 

GE1GER 167 

An affirmative team which knew only the affirmative (and not the 
negative) simply did not know the affirmative. For example, if 
Americans are indeed to be enlisted as a force against Soviet ideology, 
then it is precisely this ideology that they must understand. If this 
doesn't seem clear and persuasive, then it would be useless to go on. 
True, there is some risk in this. Possibly some few students, for a 
time, may be hypnotized by what may seem a plausible case for 
communism. But, first, it is a risk well worth taking; and, second, 
the risk is much overestimated. 

I know of no better antidote to Communist philosophy than the 
prescribed reading of the Daily Worker and the Monthly Digest of 
the Soviet Press. That to do this would incur immediate suspicion 
is one of the tragic ironies resulting from the fear inspired by current 
agitation over Communists in government. I may here express my 
belief that at the moment the American school has much more to 
fear from McCarthyism than from communism. I do not use "right" 
and "left" because it must be clearly understood that Communists are 
not of the left. American education is confronted with the very real 
danger of succumbing to the witch-hunting and hysteria of anti- 
Communist campaigning based on intolerance; at the very least, there 
is a serious danger of dereliction in the handling of unpopular social 
problems, the engendering of a dull blanket of fear and apathy or of 
mediocrity and unimaginativeness, the failure of vital and inde- 
pendent thinking. Spread of attitudes like these would be far more 
fatal than the most successful Communist conspiracy. Not that this 
last danger is being underestimated, as the following pages will indi- 
cate. Were this chapter being addressed to the general public, then a 
flat assertion like this would need to be documented. I do not think 
it needs to be in speaking to the teacher. 

The preceding argument for full discussion of even the most con- 
troversial questions may seem commonplace to many, even to those 
whose educational philosophies differ profoundly from the one ex- 
pressed in this chapter. But I submit that it is the experimentalist 
logic that helps to make such an argument meaningful. Were truth 
and values fixed and absolute, as is maintained in some sections of 
this volume, then free discussion and advocacy of what is not true 
and valuable would be something of a gratuitous gesture, indulgent 
and patronizing. But when truth and value are to be experimentally 


arrived at, then the pro and con of controversy is a matter of 
necessity, not one of politeness, sweetness, and light. Actually, the 
whole tradition of civil liberties and democracy cannot be logically 
compatible with nonnaturalistic, nonsecular, or nonscientific phi- 
losophies, for in such a context the democratic tradition must be 
sanctified and handed down literally to man. This is a violation 
of the entire spirit of liberalism. Free discussion cannot depend on 
the contingency of one's heart being sentimentally in the right place 
at the right time. It also should follow consistently from the prem- 
ises of a philosophic position. A statement prepared by Professor 
Thomas is quoted here. 

This criticism applies directly to those who believe that absolute truths 
and standards exist and who also believe that they possess sure knowledge 
of these absolutes. Given these assumptions, if they permit the "other side" 
to be presented and debated, they are being tolerant, even indulgent, to- 
ward the presentation of "error." Such tolerance could be safely expected 
only when the issue is merely academic or when no one can doubt that only 
the "right" conclusions will be reached by all students. But the criticism 
also applies, although indirectly, to those who believe in the existence of 
absolute truths and standards yet disclaim that they or anyone else can 
have sure knowledge of these absolutes. While these "liberal" classicists 
tend to encourage honest exploration of ail sides of a controversy, they are 
still looking for the truth (instead of being content with contextual truths) 
and are inclined to discount or reject conclusions which are at variance 
with the straight-line development of traditional "approximations" of the 
truth. Moreover, in times of crisis, they are easily tempted to believe that 
the ir "approximations" are closer to the real truth than anyone else's. The 
only lasting protection against the temptation to become authoritarian 
is to stake one's faith on the free process of experimental inquiry rather 
than on the existence of absolute truths and standards. 

Should Communists Be Employed as Teachers? Do the arguments 
recommending a familiarity with the ideas of Marxism and com- 
munism (among other ideas) carry over to the toleration of Com- 
munists and crypto-Communists (fellow-travelers) as teachers? 11 

ii. By "crypto-Communists" is meant those who in their activities and po- 
litical behavior follow 'without serious deviation the Communist party line, 
especially in foreign affairs. This is not guilt by association, itself a much 
overworked phrase. But in these days of official Communist secrecy about 
party membership the only test of affiliation unless we are prepared to say 
the whole thine is a myth is that of extended, consistent) and overt behavior 
e.g., a long ana uncompromising record of signing petitions, attending political 
demonstrations, meetings, and conventions, circulating pledges, sending tele- 


In the following discussion let us assume that the technical com- 
petence of the classroom teacher is not in question. 

Why should we accept Communists as teachers? The only serious 
argument would seem to be that it would be a violation of civil 
liberties and academic freedom if we did not. 12 Let us look at this 
argument. First, the Bill of Rights of the American Constitution does 
not guarantee the right to be a teacher. We are not now discussing 
the right of the Communist as a citizen and a political worker. That 
is a problem for the courts to decide. It is the Communist-as-teacher 
that is our concern. In this connection, it is a real pity that so 
many self-styled liberals and progressives (those of the "dough-faced" 
variety "democratic men with totalitarian affinities") have not been 
able to discriminate between heresy, which we need, and conspiracy, 
which we do not. Nor, apparently, have they taken the trouble to 
read the official instructions of the Communist party to its members, 
which includes, among other items, the charge "to take advantage 
of the position in the classroom without exposing themselves" to 
propagandize for the party. Would a professed liberal (since I regard 
myself as an unregenerate liberal and radical, I have to use "pro- 
fessed" or "sentimental" when I have someone else in mind) accept 
as teacher a Ku Klux Klanner who was pledged "to take advantage 
of the position in the classroom" and whose behavior indicated he 
was doing precisely this? Or a Catholic? Or a single taxer? Or 
even a Methodist or a Republican? Why, then, a Communist? Are 
they more worthy of respect than the others? Or is this form of 
open-mindedness merely another way to epater le bourgeois? 

But a technically competent Communist teacher, say of mathe- 
matics, can handle his subject in a purely objective way. Let us 
accept that even if it contravenes the official instructions of the 
Communist party to its members. Does a teacher leave all respon- 
sibility when he leaves the classroom? In most colleges and univer- 

grams, and the like, all of it in the interest of Communist policy. In other 
words, if one cannot distinguish the pro-Soviet activity of an avowed Com- 
munist from that of someone else, I regard the latter as a crypto-Communist 
or fellow-traveler and apply the same arguments to both. 

12. The argument that only a Communist is competent to teach the ideas of 
Marx, Lenin, and Stalin is no more significant than the argument that our 
anthropology departments in the universities should include cannibals on their 


sities and high schoolsat least those paying some lip-service to pro- 
gressive educationhe is also a counsellor, an adviser, a consultant, 
a sponsor of political groups. If he advises vigorously and gives clear 
behavioral evidence of lack of independent political judgment and 
absence of counselling responsibility (as when he consistently ad- 
vises student groups to sign particularly damaging petitions and tele- 
grams), is he not acting as a teacher? A line of cleavage, of course, 
must be drawn between a person as teacher and as citizen, between 
public and private; but the question being raised here is simply this: 
Is any overt activity of the teacher legitimate if only it can be la- 
beled "political"? 

Another way of saying this is to ask whether the concepts of 
civil liberties and academic freedom are to be regarded as absolutes. 
Unless they are, the entire argument for Communists-as-teachers 
would seem to collapse. (In fact, it collapses long before that when 
a judgment is made on the question whether the American Com- 
munist party is a genuine political party or a political conspiracy 
financed, controlled, and manipulated by the Soviet Union. Even if 
the courts had not decided on this point, a thorough reading of 
the official Communist literature should give the answer.) The phi- 
losophy of experimentalism can recognize no absolutes, in civil 
liberties or out of them. By absolute, as noted earlier, is meant that 
which has no context. It is tiresome to have to repeat that nothing in 
our Bill of Rights gives anyone the "right"' to cry "Fire!" when- 
ever he wishes; or to shout "death to the Jews!" to an anti-Semitic 
mob in front of a synagogue; or even to advise on a street-corner 
the assassination of President Eisenhower. These may be banal 
and egregious examples, but they simply indicate that there are 
legal and customary limits to political behavior, as to any other. If 
this is accepted and how can it be denied? then there can be no 
meaning to absolute civil liberties or academic freedom. Just 
where the limit is to be drawn is always a difficult and technical 
matter, perhaps demanding nothing short of a Supreme Court de- 
cision on "clear and present danger." Speaking for myself, I should 
want to draw the line so as to permit the fullest possible expression 
of individual political freedom; yet lines have to be drawn. This 
may be too bad, but it is simply something we have to face, just 
as we have to face the fact that political democracy itself is the 

G I G E R 171 

most difficult form of government to handle, because there are no 
absolutes. Absolute government, i.e., totalitarianism, is, by com- 
parison, a relatively simple affair. 

As elsewhere, it may be that these arguments will seem congenial 
to philosophies quite opposed to experimentalism; but, again, it 
must be insisted that it is its repudiation of absolutes, of the idee 
fixe, of the closed mind, of the unholy justification of means by ends, 
of fanaticism, that makes experimentalism the logical enemy of a 
monomania such as Stalinism. For this expression of communism 
stands as the antithesis, in method and approach, of the ethical and 
educational principles foundational for experimentalism. Indeed, 
the experimentalist has noticed, with more than a little interest, that 
so often the repentant Communist swings from one absolute to 
another: He now rejects communism but not authority, certainty, 
and dogma. In short, it is not the pragmatist and naturalist who is to 
be feared for his alleged propensity to betray principle for what 
works, but, as Herbert Muller has so excellently pointed out, "it 
is the man of fixed principles who is more apt to become profoundly 
unprincipled." When any value is put above all else, outside the 
reach of criticism or amendment, as the only true and right value, 
then it is consistent to sacrifice to it; and the diabolism of "the 
end justifies the means" is a logical follow-through. The absolute 
value may be the salvation of an immortal soul or it may be the 
classless society; if it is regarded as ultimate, certain, and unchal- 
lengeable, nothing less significant deserves consideration. It is so 
frighteningly easy to become fanatic when one has the truth. 

To close this discussion on a more positive note: More than 
anyone else, the American teacher must realize the enormous im- 
portance of maintaining a dynamic balance "dynamic," to indi- 
cate that there is no nicely fixed mid-point between extremes among 
the social and political forces impinging upon the school. The 
teacher must take the lead in supporting and actively fighting for 
the most liberal interpretation of free thinking on social issues, 
for without this, education is, at best, an innocuous affair; at the 
same time, the teacher must guard against becoming the dupe, in- 
nocent and sentimental, of forces which may indeed be subversive 
and conspiratorial. Once again, there is no pat formula to bring this 
about. But one suggestion may be made. 


At the root of the various definitions and arguments in the area 
of civil liberties and academic freedom are certain basic assump- 
tions, assumptions stemming clearly from the seventeenth- and 
eighteenth-century philosophical background of the Enlightenment. 
Although different formulations of these presuppositions could be 
made, the following three would seem to be foundational: (a) Man 
is a rational animal. Any man of right reason will be able to make 
intelligent and unbiased judgment if he is given the necessary 
information, (b) There is a free market in ideas with equal access 
to facts and opinions, (c) These ideas can be accepted at face-value; 
that is, they are overt expressions of fundamental opinions and be- 
liefs (and not covert devices subject to cynical manipulation). 

Now, even to mention postulates like these is to uncover their 
inadequacy, or, more positively, to indicate they need renovation 
and restatement. What we know of modern psychology, of the 
techniques of mass communication and propaganda, of the use of 
the "big lie" and of the brutal exploitation of civil liberties to 
undermine civil liberties all this drives to the conclusion that the 
traditional assumptions are transparently insufficient. Such an 
observation is not an obscure device for recommending a com- 
promise on civil liberties. On the contrary, it is the insistence that 
assumptions are indeed necessary on which to found free think- 
ing (or anything else); but that all postulate-sets, even in mathe- 
matics, can be adjusted to changing knowledge and need; and that 
unless something like the classical presuppositions can be reworked, 
then possibly more dubious assumptions, as of a theological char- 
acter, will be turned to, or, on the other hand, a cynical defeatism 
might develop. An example of the kind of change which might be 
possible here is found in the evolution of the concept of "rights" 
from their "natural" and "metaphysical" character i la seventeenth- 
and eighteenth-century to the more flexible interpretation of rights 
as moral claims which man makes upon society so as to develop his 
full potentialities, an interpretation which has provided a basis for 
much of the discussion of "new" bills of rights. 18 

To sum up, then: Men definitely have not said the^ last word on 
the subject of civil liberties and academic freedom; the new and 

13. See Harry Girvetz, From Wealth to Welfare, pp. 223-24. Stanford, Cal- 
ifornia: Stanford University Press, 1950. 


growing sciences of man and the new approaches to theory of 
value can be expected to contribute knowledge and insights which 
can help us rethink and reformulate the traditional axioms, defini- 
tions, and arguments; and, finally, this is a notable and positive con- 
tribution American education can make to American culture. 

The School and Religion 

Despite its importance, the problem of religion in education will 
be considered under only two aspects, each of which-at least from 
the viewpoint of experimentalism may be briefly noted, undoubted- 
ly too briefly. 

The first aspect is that of religion defined in the usual and more 
orthodox fashion, where it connotes the supernatural and, usually, 
an institution. Since experimentalists are naturalists, what they 
would have to settle for hereor, rather, push for would be a 
historical, objective, and comparative study of world religions. The 
religious experience and the religious institution are, of course, vital 
parts of all culture. They certainly should not be omitted from 
education. But they can be studied in an unbiased, nondogmatic, and 
relaxed fashion, which is what the nondenominational school can 
and should do. However, to attempt to indoctrinate not simply one 
religion, say, Christianity, but even the general spirit of super- 
naturalism is not the province of the school. This, if wanted, can 
be left to the church and to the home. 

The second aspect has to do with Dewey's suggestion that the 
word "religious" be distinguished from "religion." The religious 
attitude is one with which we approach our basic values, an at- 
titude of deep emotional commitment and motivation. If "religion" 
is to be understood in this broad sense, then certainly nothing worthy 
of the name education can be aloof from it. It will be recognized 
that the experimentalist in philosophy is often a humanist in reli- 
gion. He feels that commitment, motivation, and emotional stirring 
cannot be absent from any serious philosophy. But he feels that 
such stirrings have often been entirely absorbed by the supernatural, 
traditional, and institutionalized expressions of religion; whereas, 
his hope is that "devotion so intense as to be religious" can also be 
aroused by allegiance to the typically human qualities of creative 
intelligence and critical inquiry. The experimentalist believes that 


emotional commitment can be made to these as well as to the super- 
natural and the remote, and here he gets excited, educationally and 
religiously excited. 


BODE, BOYD H. How We Learn. Boston: D. C. Health & Co., 1040. 

. Progressive Education at the Crossroads. New York: Newson Co., 

CHILDS, JOHN L. Education and Morals. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 

Inc., 1950. 
. Education and the Philosophy of Experimentalism. New York: Century 

Co., 1931. 
. "The Educational Philosophy of John Dewey," The Philosophy of John 

Dewey. Edited by Paul A. Schilpp. Library of Living Philosophers, Vol. I. 

Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University, 1939. 
COUNTS, GEORGE S. Education and the Promise of America. New York: Mac- 

millan Co., 1946. 
CURTI, MERLE. The Social Ideas of American Educators. New York: Charles 

Scribner's Sons., 1935. 
DEWEY, JOHN. Democracy and Education. New York: Macmillan Co., 1916. 

. Experience and Education. New York: Macmillan Co., 1938. 

. Experience and Nature. La Salle, Illinois: Open Court Publishing Co., 

GIDEONSE, HARRY D. The Higher Learning in a Democracy. New York: Farrar 

& Rinehart, Inc., 1937. 

HOOK, SIDNEY. Education for Modern Man. New York: Dial Press, Inc., 1946. 
KILPATRICK, WILLIAM H. Education for a Changing Civilization. New York: 

Macmillan Co., 1951. 

. Philosophy of Education. New York: Macmillan Co., 1951. 

TAYLOR, HAROLD. On Education and Freedom. New York: Abelard-Schuman, 

Inc., 1954. 
THOMAS, LAWRENCE G. "The Meaning of 'Progress' in Progressive Education," 

Educational Administration and Supervision, XXXII (October, 1946), 385- 



On the Marxist Philosophy of Education* 


"The germs of the education of the future are to be found in the 
factory system." Karl Marx. 


The challenge of Marxist thought is more profound than the 
challenge of Soviet armed force. Karl Marx and his many varied 
followers forged a new outlook on life, on man, on society, on 
history, and it was an outlook that arose entirely within our West- 
ern civilization. Original in conception, in sweep, and in applica- 
tion, it was yet the heir to the entire treasury of European and 
American experience: 

a) the ethical notion of Old Testament prophetic social justice; 

b) the common sharing of early Christian communal brotherhood; 

c) the great protest against human exploitation uttered by Jesus; 

d) the rational attitude toward natural and human problems of the an- 
cient Greek historians and philosophers; 

e) the realistic emphasis on facts placed by modern science; 

f ) the Baconian insight that knowledge is power; 

g) the philosophic awareness that human knowledge is distorted by in- 
adequacy in the knower as much as by elusiveness of the object to be 

* I am indebted to the Faculty Research Committee of Wesleyan University 
for grants which have been of aid in this and other studies in Marxist thought. 
I must also record my indebtedness to Dr. John Lewis for permitting me to study 
some unpublished lecture notes on educational theory. 

I expect that this essay will assist American teachers in their understanding 
of the Communist approach to education. It is always difficult for an outsider 
to write an exposition of the views of a school of thought. Although I am not 
a Communist, I have hopes that this study will not contain too many distortions 
or misstatements. At any rate, it is an attempt at an inside view written by one 
who is a democrat and a socialist. I should like to add that I have received cour- 
teous and intelligent assistance from a number of Marxist scholars for which 
I am very grateful. 



h) the Darwinian evidence that there are no fixities in nature, that all 

is in lawful flux; 
the evidence from France and America and England that men can 

refashion their social order when they have a mind and a power to; 
;) the creative daring and substantial achievement of capitalism; 
k) the lesson of industrial technology that poverty is literally no longer 

/) the French socialist feeling that liberty is somehow linked with 

m) the classic English economic teaching that the source of value lies 

only in the human labor expended; 
w ) the German philosophic lesson that men in exploitative societies are 

alienated from their true humane nature, whether they be master or 

slave, lord or serf, banker or factory laborer. 

This is no alien ideology but one of us, and it requires the utmost 
of careful study. Its analyses must be tested against the experience 
of each of us. Its critique of the existing society compels the most 
serious attention. And its relative weakness in holding the devotion 
of Americans should cause us to overlook neither its enormous im- 
pact on all Western thought, our own included, nor its capacity for 
arousing the deep loyalty of intelligent, sensitive, humane, and 
even religious men and women throughout the world. 

In the first part of this chapter, I shall set forth certain essential 
features of the Marxist outlook, and then, in the second part, I 
shall develop as much educational theory as seems implied with 
reasonable certainty by that outlook. The world is interested in 
the Soviet development of Marxist thought, and I shall, therefore, 
ignore, for the most pan, those socialist and Marxist ideas which 
have not been associated with the Soviet Communist tradition, as 
developed within the U.S.S.R. and to a lesser extent elsewhere. So 
far as possible, factual illustrations will be drawn from Soviet edu- 
cational realities, but this is not intended to be a study in Soviet 
educational practices, nor even a history of Soviet educational 
theories. It is an essay on the implicatons of Marxism for the edu- 
cation of men. Moreover, in keeping with the Marxist emphasis on 
concrete social reality, I shall hope to show the Marxist lesson for 
the teacher and school in a capitalist democracy just as much as 
under socialist revolutionary transition and in the later stable 
socialist society. 1 

i. Readers, whose interests are more practical, may find it advantageous to 
turn first to the discussion of principles of education and then to read the dis- 

COHEN 177 

The Philosophy and Social Theory of Marxism 


We must remind ourselves that neither Karl Marx nor any other 
Communist was born a Marxist. The man, Marx, faced problems 
common to Western European university graduates in the early 
and mid-nineteenth century, just as the man, Lenin, faced the 
socially pressing problems of all Russian intellectuals at the turn 
of the twentieth century. The history of philosophy and science, 
East and West, has raised two main questions preliminary to an 
adequate philosophy: What kind of world do we live in? What is 
man? In considering these, thinkers have typically found it nec- 
essary to ask the further question: How do we know? And finally, 
in recognition of their experience of power and responsibility, 
limited as each may be, thinking men have sought to answer the 
questions: What ought to be? What ought we to do? The sciences 
of nature and the study of man join with the philosophy and psy- 
chology of knowledge to provide, at least hopefully, a consistent 
account of man's factual environment and his relationship with it. 
Whether the relations of men to men can be brought into harmony 
with this prospective scientific account, or whether, on the con- 
trary, human relations must be considered in a quite special and 
even antiscientific manner has remained a debated issue; and it is 
within this latter area that ethics and politics arise. 

Karl Marx devoted his life to investigating the nature of man, to 
discovering the human essence, and in so doing he intended to 
achieve objective, scientific knowledge. His concepts and laws are 
not those of physics or even biology, his observational procedures 
are not the experiments of chemistry or the arboreta of botany, and 
as a scientist of human culture he may have found it of utmost dif- 
ficulty to maintain an objective approach in the face of his own 
cultural background; but despite these differences Marx literally 
hoped to develop .the .science of society. Even thte may liavc "freer* 
subordinate to his simple goal of attaining the truth about man, for 
his initial observation, which leads to social science, is that man 
never exists in himself, he never lives as a true hermit. "Man" is 

cussion of the general philosophical and scientific principles on which the edu- 
cational theory rests. 


the wrong word; we should speak of "men" and we should ground 
our every speculation about men on the concrete behavior and 
relations of men as we find them. The most conspicuous feature 
of men and women is that they must be discussed in the plural; 
they are social by nature. The science of man will be the science 
of society. 

This is but an empirical generalization from Marx's experience 
that men differ in their behavior, their motivations, their illusions, 
their knowledge, and their fears, and from his further historical 
observation that the ways in which men behave vary with their 
times. But this common-sense statement has always provoked the 
notion that there may be an order of development to that human 
nature, an order which has been historically revealed. How, in that 
case, shall we analyze particular historically-located men? What 
shall be the tools for social science, and what shall be the con- 
ceptual framework of social philosophy? 


It is trivial to remark that all things change, but it is far from 
a trivial hypothesis to claim that the changes form a coherent 
pattern. Even more, is it significant to show that the pattern has 
a major motif, and that, whatever the myriads of events and swirls 
of causal threads, there is ultimately to be found a unique cause. 
_Jet.such wa_s ihe conclusion of. Marx and Engels, and their concept 
of a dominant and progressive causal process^ became a working 
hypothesis in all Marxist treatment oTTiuman affairs. That which 
is dominant, however, need not exercise exclusive control in human 
affairs. In their writings it is clear that for Marx and Engels his- 
torical causation is an affair of mutual interrelationships, secondary 
and tertiary responses; and indeed, beyond these subordinate effects, 
Marx realized that : the jhistory ^oTsociety has shown that historical 
^causation is intrinsically creative. Thus," we^acT not have a mechani- 
cal equivalence between cause and effect but, rather, the effect 
may be quite new. In particular, the new phenomenon-effect may 
go on to a life career of its own, and in some ways may serve as 
an independent causal influence on men's lives, even deflecting or 
modifying whatever may be the original dominant source of 
events. In this way a cultural institution, such as the theater, may 

COHEN 179 

develop itself and may be understood in its own terms. Indeed it 
must be understood this way or else it will be falsely converted 
into something else. It will affect the lives of those in its social 
milieu who are not theater people, and it will, in rime and under 
conditions to be ascertained by the sociologist of the theater, 
affect the very socioeconomic soil in which it grew. 

Similarly the history of science will have complexities. The prob- 
lems to be faced by the scientists of an age can arise in the logical 
development of previous science, or it can be posed for the scientists 
by their fellow-men. Radar research resulted from the recognition 
by a scientist of a nonscientific challenge to locate Nazi bombers; 
parts of geometrical optics were stimulated by almost photographic 
demands of seventeenth-century Dutch painters; fundamental me- 
chanics was a response to the enormous demands of early modern 
capitalist technology as well as to the revolutionary way of think- 
ing in the revival of Plato's mathematical philosophizing. But even 
if one stage of science poses an abundance of unsolved questions 
for the next generation of scientists and how many examples each 
teacher can furnish from his own special subject matter! yet one 
may reasonably doubt that this causal chain, internal to science, can 
be pushed back in time indefinitely. Surely there were men, how- 
ever primitive, before there was science. The origin of science must 
then in some ultimate sense be in the nonscientific aspects of social 
history. Similarly, one may treat the ideas with which scientists 
solved their problems. Some ideas come by analogy to the solu- 
tions to other scientific problems, some by the wildest of analogies 
to other human affairs, some from the logically rigorous extension 
of previous theory, some by trial-and-error, some from the very 
atmosphere of the culture, some from the glaring lesson of the ex- 
perience of nature. But one would have to be bold to say that these 
sources are not themselves either of previous science or of human 
experience in society or nature. The realms of society which give 
rise to scientific problems and at times to scientific answers will 
have their own quasi-independent history, such as the history of 
religion and of art, of craft and of war. Each acts on each, but 
each may be analyzed to the point that its ultimate origin and the 
origins of many of its historical developments are not self-explained. 
Engels remarked that "unfortunately it has become the custom in 


Germany to write the history of the sciences as if they had fallen 
from the skies." 2 For him and for Marx, a basic plurality of self- 
perpetuating causes seemed to deny the facts of history. The facts 
of history were mystifying, inexplicable, irrational, "fallen from the 
skies," unless the origin of cultural institutions was understood. And 
since this origin was to be sought in a human social activity, it 
required one that could be self-causing from the earliest stage of 
human existence. Such a social activity is human labor, and the 
mainly independent process of history is the development of the 
laborious techniques of production of goods, while the correspond- 
ing historical behavior of men lay in the social relations of men in 
the process of production. 

The tools of Marxist social science are, then, \a) critical analysis 
of the proWem to be solved, its formulation, its terms of reference, 
its genesis; \b) detailed historical specification of the problem, 
translating unreal abstractions by showing the particular circum- 
stances of their relevance and, hence, changing them into concrete 
empirical concepts; (c) empirical postulation of the self -generating 
development of the productive forces of societies, in contrast to the 
dependent development of other aspects of human life; and (d) a 
further empirical generalization, confirming the somewhat specula- 
tive Marxian inheritance from the philosophy of Hegel, that his- 
torical development is the result of conflicts among men, their 
social-economic status impelling them to have irreconcilable in- 
terests, that the struggle of competitive social classes is the dynamic 
force leading to social change. 

The general statement of historical materialism which has been 
taken as classic is that of Marx: 

In the social production which men carry on they enter into definite 
relations that are indispensable and independent of their will; these re- 
lations of production correspond to a definite stage of development of 
their material forces of production. The sum total of these relations of 
production constitutes the economic structure of societythe real founda- 
tion, on which rises a legal and political superstructure and to which cor- 
respond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production 
in material life determines the social, political, and intellectual life-process 

2. In a letter to H. Starkenburg, dated London, 25 January 1894. Karl Marx 
and Friedrich Engels, Selected Correspondence -, 1846-1895, letter 229, p. 517. 
Translated with notes by Dona Ton. New York: International Publishers Co., 
1942 (Marxist Library, Vol. XXDC). 

COHEN l8l 

in general. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, 
but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their conscious- 
ness. At a certain stage of their development, the material forces of pro- 
duction in society come in conflict with the existing relations of pro- 
duction, or what is but a legal expression for the same thing with the 
property relations within which they have been at work before. From 
forms of development of the forces of production these relations turn into 
their fetters. Then begins an epoch of social revolution. With the change 
of the economic foundation, the entire immense superstructure is more 
or less rapidly transformed. In considering such transformations a dis- 
tinction should always be made between the material transformation of 
the economic conditions of production, which can be determined with 
the precision of natural science, and the legal, political, religious, aesthetic 
or philosophic in short, ideological forms in which men become con- 
scious of this conflict and fight it out. Just as our opinion of an individual 
is not based on what he thinks of himself, so can we not judge of such a 
period of transformation by its own consciousness; on the contrary, this 
consciousness must be explained rather from the contradictions of material 
life, from the existing conflict between the social forces of production and 
the relations of production. No social order ever disappears before all 
the productive forces for which there is room in it have been developed; 
and new higher relations of production never appear before the material 
conditions of their existence have matured in the womb of the old society 
itself. Therefore, mankind always sets itself only such tasks as it can 
solve; since, looking at the matter more closely, we will always find that 
the task itself arises only when the material conditions necessary for its 
solution already exist or are at least in the process of formation. 3 


It is difficult to recognize historical dominance of class struggle 
in periods of history which are studied only from their chronological 
records. Nor is it an obvious feature to the statistical gatherer of the 
facts of a certain moment, or year, or decade. Society, taken in 
cross section, can be sliced in many ways, each suitable for its own 
purpose. The middle-class shopkeeper is not only the hirer of his 
clerks, for he is also, perhaps, a father and husband, a theater-goer, 
a Negro, a Methodist, a minor gambler, an extroverted storyteller, 
and a bird-watcher. The significant factor in social affairs can be 
apprehended through a dynamic approach only. This approach 
contrasts sharply with that positivistic patience with detail but im- 
patience with dynamic theory that marks so much social analysis 

3. Karl Alarx, from the preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political 
Economy, pp. 11-13. Chicago: Charles H. Kerr & Co., 1904; or in Selected 
Works, Vol. I, pp. 356-578. New York: International Publishers Co., n.d. 


of our age. Even the few non-Marxist attempts at a perspective in 
time are frequently marred by use of models whose ideal behavior, 
in contrast with social reality, show long-term stability and short- 
term cycles, jjowever adequately cyclical, analysis may seem to 
reveal temporal change, it reduces to repetitive and mechanical 
jzlumjgs of rigidity which deny that there is really a history. To Marx, 
thejnadpqnacy otsuch analysis was overwhelmingly evident. Each 
economic depression, each abortive nineteenth-century revolution, 
each industrial advance, each political constitution was new and de- 
served^ critical analysis. Hj^^rcat._n^l^^logial jppstulatfi "of 
analysis, namely, the dialectical nature of all development, seeks to 
jDreserve this existential novelty of things and events while com- 
prehending the unifying source and reason for their creation. 

Originally signifying the intellectual achievement of vigorous 
searching debate, the dialectical conception came to its climax in 
the extreme use of logic by German philosophers. The heart of the 
matter is that logical thoughtyJaiL^lQnLfl owing in a free stream of 
consciousness, is disciplined to flow in a rigorous fashion, one step 
entailing the next, one stage containing within itself the steps lead- 
ing to the next stage. Since laws of rigorous necessity connect these 
stages of thought, we cannot look to the pigeonhole collections of 
the laws of empirical facts to provide the entailment process. After 
all, we always can ask, "why?" of any empirical law: All crows are 
black; why? All things fall; why? Mass-energy can be neither 
created nor destroyed; why? It would seem that logical necessity 
must rest inside the thoughts, within the ideas, and not be patterned 
after the statistical probabilities and the ultimately unanswered why 
of observation. This internal relationship becomes, in Hegel's phi- 
losophy, the relation of opposites. It is, paradoxically, negation (and 
not, as one might psychologically have assumed, affirmation) which 
provides the power for Hegel's engine of logical development. In 
its barest statement, this is the question of how things as they are 
can transform into things as they will be, while remaining somehow 
recognizably the same things. The acorn and oak are yet the 
same entity, despite the thorough changes of growth. Thus we are 
puzzled by the opposition of permanence and change, or the co- 
existence of identity and difference. If all things are both like and 
unlike all other things, we have the question at once of unraveling 

COHEN 183 

those respects in which they are indeed alike and those in which 
they are different. Those in which they differ are the interesting 
ones. For Marx as for Hegel, the future is forged in the furnace of 
the present, out of the mutual and necessary opposition of present 
factors. Hegel sees these present factors as logical contradictories, 
inadequate for a reasonable man's mind to conclude with. 

Marx sees the opposed factors as actual facts. They are historical 
forces r jbasica]ly s vinstable and explosive, and intrinsicilly 7n op- 
position. Some dialectical oppositions are philosophical in the ex- 
treme, requiring much subtlety of analysis; we think of the tension 
between individual and society, each incompletely known without 
the concept and science of the other. 

Others are plain as day: The factory-owner cannot be treated 
in theoretical terms without his opposite, the factory- worker, nor 
can the worker in turn be understood without consideration of the 
owner. Their interests are opposed, for the basic principle of the 
privately owned factory system is the maximizing of financial profit 
on investment, while the worker's interests are simply to sell his 
working skills at the highest price per hour or per product. Taken 
historically the factory-owner appears first, and, by several proc- 
esses, the hitherto minute class of those who work for money wages 
is enormously increased, largely be it noted by foreclosure and 
other economic actions on the peasant and small agricultural popu- 
lation. But the inchoate and ignorant mass of bewildered new factory 
jmen, women, and children 4 developed their own consciousness of 
Ebeir novel social situation. They acted upon this consciousness 
in one way or another depending, as always, on the specific cir- 
cumstance, forming labor unions here, wrecking the labor-saving, 
factory-spawning machines there, becoming political in Germany, 
anarchically antipolitical in Spain, and unpolitically business-like in 
the United States. But they are, at any rate, educated by their ex- 
perience, react to it, react indeed upon it. 

The change in the socioeconomic behavior of the society of the 
ruggedly individual capitalist is due, in part, therefore, to the very 
labor force which his capitalist institution, the factory, must have. 

4. See, for example, J. L. and Barbara Hammond, The Bleak Age. Middlesex, 
England, and Baltimore, Maryland: Penguin Books, 1947; and Friedrich Engels, 
The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844. London: Allen & 
Unwin, 1950. 


The factory system is one of socially organized production, where- 
as _the crafts of an earlier age were mainly dKe~scene of in3ffvicTiSl 
production. In both cases the productive means are owned by in- 
dividuals, and the profits and losses accrue to the individual owners; 
but in the capitalist economic order, the products of human labor 
are appropriated by those who own the instruments, the buildings, 
the raw materials, but who do no producing. We have then a his- 
torical conflict which not only exists in principle but also erupts, 
on occasion, into violence, a conflict between a socialized production 
and a capitalist appropriation. The capitalist social relations have 
their own origin and justification in the earlier institutional forms 
of individual production and individual marketing. "In this con- 
tradiction, which gives the new mode of production its capitalist 
character, the whole conflict of today is already present in germ. . . . 
TJw? Contradiction between social production and capitalist appropri- 
ation became manifest as the antagonism between proletariat and 
bourgeoisie." 5 Then as the history of capitalism unfolds, these pro- 
ductive facilities become concentrated in fewer hands, the con- 
tradiction becomes more intense. The further contribution of Marx 
at this stage in the analysis is his denial that gradual evolu- 
tionary change may be at all likely. For the conflict is between 
the irresistible force of changing productive techniques and the 
immovable object of institutions, immovable because the basic 
social structure of the capitalist society, the class interests of the 
capitalists themselves, rests on the preservation of private property. 
Without private property there can be no capitalist; with it there 
must be conflict. When sufficiently intense, this conflict will entail 
social disintegration or fundamental social change. Perhaps the most 
symbolic of these Marxist reflections upon the paradoxes and con- 
flicts of the capitalist order is its attention to that phenomenon 
unique in hun^^J^m^;^airation v pove^^ajid unemployment 
caused by~ overproduction. 


Is man free? Can the science which sets forth the laws that bind 
the development of human society be the same intellectual instru- 

5. Friedrich Engels, Herr Eugen Duhring's Revolution in Science (Anti- 
Diihrmg), Part III, chap, ii, pp. 296-97. New York: International Publishers 
Co., 1939 (Marxist Library, Vol. XVIII). 

COHEN 185 

ment which will set man free? As always, Marx approaches this 
contrast in terms of historical genesis, dialectical development, and 
ongoing synthesis. How, indeed, can man be subject to objective 
impersonal law, even as a rock in its motion or a sunflower seed in 
its growing, and yet be a creature of progressive self-control and 
developing freedom? The answer, for Hegel, lies in a new and 
essential characteristic of the human species, its consciousness. The 
sunflower knows not what it will become nor how it is pro- 
scribed in its growth. "Man knows that he is limited by (external) 
nature, but, in knowing it, he is already partly free." 6 To our earlier 
question, "How do we know?" we preface the observation that it 
is a preliminary fact that we do, in fact, know. Perhaps the most 
distinguishing aspect of this human quality is that it is a relation 
between knower and the known, that it unites them. Whatever the 
other faults of Western thought may have been, none strikes 
deeper, in the eyes of Marx and Hegel, than the artificial separation 
of the knowing subject from his known object. Indeed, for the 
idealistic philosophy of Hegel, this yawning dualism between man 
and his known world was to be overcome as an act of a subjective 
reasoning mind, unfolding through internal implications to encom- 
pass the entire qualitative richness of the objective world. 

Fqr_Marx.isjn, knowledge js only a partial step ,tp freedom. How- 
ever, the character of knowledge reveals upon analysis the direction 
of the next step. Bacon's aphorism correctly relates knowledge to 
power over factual matters precisely because "the question whether 
objective truth can be attributed to human thinking is not a question 
of theory, but is a practical question." 7 The truth and thq gpwer 
lie in {Jxe creative act of knowing. Knowledge is not contemplative, 
passive, the plaything of leisure relaxation. So far as it is such, it is 
incomplete and corrupt. The experimental method of natural science 

6. Otis Lee, Existence and Inquiry, Part II Dialectic, Section 3, The Course 
of Inquiry, p. 131. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1949. This extraordi- 
narily lucid and perceptive book is not sufficiently known, either to philosophers 
or other thinkers and teachers. It provides a searching exposition of the basic 
alternatives of thought in the modern world, analysis, dialectic, and pragmatism, 
and in the course of his discussion, Professor Lee wrote a stimulating, critical 
account of the Marxist philosophy of dialectical materialism (pp. 152-88). 

7. Karl Marx, Theses on Feuerbach, II in appendix to the U.S. edition of The 
German Ideology, p. 197. New York: International Publishers Co., 1939 (Marx- 
ist Library, Vol. VI). 


is witness to this creative involvement of the knower, the scientist, 
in the world he knows. Even more striking is the continuation of 
revolutionary changes caused by the technology of the industrial 
capitalist. Writing in 1848, Marx and Engels estimated that the 
"bourgeoisie, during its reign of scarce one hundred years has 
created more powerful and more stupenduous forces of production 
than all preceding generations rolled into one. The subjection of the 
forces of nature, the invention of machinery, the application of 
chemistry to industry and agriculture, steamships, railways, elec- 
tric telegraphs, the clearing of whole continents for cultivation, the 
making of navigable waterways, huge populations springing up as if 
by magic out of the earth what earlier generations had the re- 
motest inkling that such productive powers slumbered within the 
womb of social labor?" 8 Scientific inquiry reveals the laws of 
nature, and, by grasping these laws of necessity, man has changed 
himself and his world. A famous phrase summarizes this view: Free- 
dom is the recognition of necessity. 

Man's knowledge of nature and the power it begets are incom- 
plete. Consciousness of the objects which make up his environment 
must be joined with self-consciousness. From Bacon we must return 
to Socrates: Know thyself. But of course the individual and social 
nature of man is no easy object for study. Nor are the various 
facets of human culture, being themselves but the institutionalized 
projections of the human spirit, free from the laws of individual 
development. Hence, knowledge of ourselves and our society, which 
is the prerequisite to control over ourselves and our society and 
which is itself a cultural phenomenon, is a social product. The 
sociological determination of culture, and especially the sociology 
of knowledge, leads to the most pervasive relativism. A scientific 
inquiry into the sources, function, and pattern of philosophy itself is 
called for. And the Marxist can never compromise his understanding 
that the determination of human thought and feeling, like our 
illustration of the history of science, is not one of internal causation 
of thought by thought. The determining factors lie in the basis upon 
which society rests, the life needs, the productive techniques, the 

8. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party, Part I, 
p. 31. Critical annotated edition, prepared by D. Ryazanoff. New York: Inter- 
national Publishers Co., 1930. 

COHEN 187 

forms of the struggle for existence. Man makes his own history, but 
the way he does so flows from his consciousness, and his conscious- 
ness is no independent thing but itself a social historical product. 
"It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, 
but, on the contrary, their social existence determines their con- 
sciousness." 9 

How then can this superstructure of culture, knowledge, phi- 
losophy, science, arts, religon, ethics, law, and social relations be 
evaluated? No doubt, the doctrine of historical progress will, in 
Marxist terms, imply the lessening of spiritual illusion along with 
the establishment of material improvement. The illusions are his- 
torically caused, often appropriate reactions to the human situation 
at their genesis. But the recurrent retreat into the illusions of ide- 
ology plays the same conservative role as does the persistent main- 
tenance of private property relationships in an economic era of 
socially-integrated production. To determine what conditions in the 
economic basis will provide the necessary conditions for realism 
and truth in the cultural superstructure remains, today, a difficult 
empirical question for social scientfic analysis. Moreover the 
analysis will not be satisfactory until the social factors which 
determine the social scientist himself are known to him. A society 
which can achieve truth is one in which its scientists know their 
own determinants. And yet men in class-distorted societies glimpse 
truths. Here Marxism decisively breaks with other doctrines of the 
social relativism of culture, and especially of ideas, 10 for the non- 
Marxists generally hold a pragmatic criterion of truth as merely .use- 
JAiIncss^Fbr Mant, however, the re can be^no separation between 
.Utility and truth, and moreover there can be no doubt that every id- 
eology has jratisfactor^^ external necessities^oLnatuiE 
and society which pressed upon its believers. To reach the stage 
where the truth of science will substitute for the quarter-truths of 
ideological beliefs, we must first reach the stage where the economic 
conditions which have limited all past ideologies have been tran- 
scended. Now the answer is clearer, for we have seen that Marx's 

9. Karl Marx, from the preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political 
Economy, op. cit., p. n. 

10. See, for the sociology of knowledge, the comprehensive discussion by 
Robert K. Merton, "The Sociology of Knowledge," reprinted as chap, viii of 
his Social Theory and Social Structure. Glencoe, Illinois: Free Press, 1949. 


to conclude jhat, there are two,, restrictive 
and inescapable influences on m^}: Man is oppressed b^ nature, and 

men via the relations of sodaTcIasses. 

Overcome these^ and truth can be 

Religion and ideological distortions of other kinds, as well as sci- 
ence, reflect the stages of human society. Religion and science arise 
from the magical error that an illusion of control will yield actual 
control. Religion develops the illusory response to man's impotence, 
science the creative hope of man's power. Bu the reason that 
religion continues the theme of impotence, and correctly too, is 
that civilized man can no more control his society than primitive 
man can control nature. JWhen man becomes self-conscious, indeed 
class-conscious,, he is at that moment becoming a scientist of society. 
In the critique of religion will be found the start of Marx's phi- 
losophy, that is, in the realization that religion has been simultaneous- 
ly (flV-the emotive outcry of real misery, (b) the idealistic formula- 
tion of a protest against human misery, and (c) the persistent 
instrument for deflecting men's minds from the actions* necessary to 
remedy their misery. 

Religious misery is, on the one hand, the expression of actual misery, 
and, on the other, a protest against actual misery. Religion is the sigh of 
the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, the spirit of 
unspiritual conditions. It is the people's opium. 

And again, 

The removal of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the 
demand for its real happiness. The demand that it should give up illusions 
about its real conditions is the demand that it should give up the con- 
ditions which make illusions necessary. Criticism of religion is, therefore, 
at heart a criticism of the vale of misery for which religion is the promised 
vision. 1 1 

Man can now, in the twentieth century, overcome the main 
feature of his subjection by nature. The uniqueness of our present 
miseries, the farcical tragedy of having too much abundance pro- 
vides our opportunity. Moreover, the present time witnesses, at 
long last, a social conflict whose outcome may provide the end of 

ii. Quoted from Marx, Introduction to a Critique of HegeFs Philosophy of 
Law in John Lewis, "Communism, the Heir to the Christian Tradition," an 
essay from that remarkable collection by Christian and Communist thinkers, 
Christianity and the Social Revolution, p. 491. London: Victor Gollancz, Ltd.; 
New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1936. 

COHEN 1 89 

social conflicts. The dialectical result of the history of class-strug- 
gles is the emergence of the proletariat of modern industry and their 
allies in economic imperialism, the colonial peasantry. Their goal is 
not class dominance, for their victory will see an undivided society, 
a classless society. Whatever may be the ideological distortions of 
the future society, it will have achieved the historic goal of freeing 
mankind from the hitherto universal fetters of class-struggles. In 
the realm of ideas, it will have lifted the veil of illusion that has 
clouded human vision. Men will no longer be prey to historic laws 
beyond their control; they will be able to begin to create their own 
history, with respect to which all previous human affairs will seem 
to have been, in Engels' words, merely prehistoric and prehuman. 
The long struggle for a classless society is the search for the eco- 
nomic means and the social relations which will abolish the ex- 
ploitation of men by men. It is necessary to express this in a positive 
way too. It has been the struggle to permit man to be himself, 
whole, active, spiritual, freely creative, self-controlled, critically self- 
conscious, happy, and, in no mawkish sense, a comrade and brother 
to his fellow-men. 


The view that the essence of man will be realizable by the 
socialist revolution provokes the inquiry, "What was nonhuman 
about man's estate in class society?" We should expect that the 
impact of the division of labor in class societies will be reflected 
in man's behavior and in his mental life. Moreover, his behavior, 
upon analysis, should lead us to the same conclusions about his 
nature as analysis of his culture would. 

Marxism will admit no dramatic miracles, no creations from the 
void, and it is characteristic that Engels should write a chapter 
to explore the origin of the human essence. The essence is often 
obscure in Western thought. Is man's nature and goal to be a creature 
of reason? Is he distinctively a social animal, whatever that charac- 
terization might imply about the kinds of society? Is he distinctive 
in that he can laugh? or can know? or can know himself and the 
future? Is it that he can love? or senselessly destroy? Or are these 
all derivative from some less abstract and less isolated notion than 
they are? The title of Engels' chapter is "The Part Played by 


Labour in the Transition from Ape to Man" 12 and we find Marx's 
own perception in another of his pregnant aphorisms: J^ut_the 
essence of man is no abstraction inherent in each separate individual. 
j fc s_the ensemble of social relations." 13 What we can 

find by scientific examination of man's history is the distortion of 
human nature, not some eternal nugget of ideal but hidden humani- 
ty, waiting, perhaps seeping through the distorting walls, like some 
water under pressure. Only from the historical trends may we phi- 
losophize about the essence of the human species. The nature of man 
has a minimum which thrilled Marx and Engels to the core: He 
is blessed with the biologically evolved equipment to fashion his 
natural environment more or less as he wills, by his own creative 
laboring efforts of mind and hand. 

The normal existence of animals is given by the conditions in which 
they live and to which they adapt themselvesthose of man, as soon as 
he differentiates himself from the animal in the narrower sense, have 
as yet never been present, and are only to be elaborated by the ensuing 
historical development. Man is the sole animal capable of working his 
way out of the merely animal state his normal state is one appropriate 
to his consciousness, one to be created by himself. 14 

Recognizing the noble function of labor, we turn to the vast 
succession of stages of labor. For, from a primitive stage of family 
or small-group life in which harsh conditions and little knowledge 
compel all to labor, incessantly and with neither special knowledge 
nor special privilege, men have gone on to live in societies of 
social classes. It is the effect of the social division of labor that we 
want to examine. And here is the most compelling example of the 
dialectic as an analytic tool. Labor is the very touchstone for man's 
self-realization, the medium of creating the world of his desire; and 
it is labor which should make him happy. Indeed, the essence of 
man is in his striving to achieve his desires. He is not provoked into 
learning and achieving by the pragmatic stimulus of an external 
threat. He labors to transform his world, to put his own mark 
on it, to make it his, and to make himself at home in it. By the 
specializing effect of the division of labor, and by the technological 

12. Friedrich Engels, Dialectics of Nature, chap. ix. New York: International 
Publishers Co., 1940. 

13. Marx, Theses on Feuerbach, Vl y loc. cit., p. 198. 

14. Engels, op. cit. 9 p. 187, 

COHEN 191 

knowledge stimulated from age to age, man's labor has produced 
a thousand-fold and again a thousand-fold greater output. He has 
mastered nature. But he has lost his essence in the process. He has 
been de-humanized, for he has become divided from himself. We 
read in Marx's earliest writings: 

[The worker] first feels he is with himself when he is free from work 
and apart from himself when he is at work. He is at home when he does 
not work, and not at home when he does. His v/orking is, therefore, not 
done willingly but under compulsion. It is forced labor. It is, therefore, 
not the satisfaction of a need, but only a means for the satisfaction of 
wants outside of it. [In consequence], man, the worker, feels himself acting 
freely only in his animal functions like eating, drinking, begetting . . . 
whereas in his human functions he is nothing but a [work] animal. The 
animal becomes the human and the human the animal. 15 

The worker is alienated from his work. He is considered as a 
unit of labor costs, a factor in the cost of production, in a word, as 
a saleable commodity. Hence he becomes, for his society, a thing. 
And, in this topsy-turvy fashion, that which exchanges for things 
(and hence for labor) receives the highest respect. Money has value, 
human labor has a price. Money talks. Men are a means, not an 
end. The effect of this reification of human labor is the abstract con- 
cept of an economic man or, more sharply phrased, the concealment 
of the human relations in the economic order. What Marx called 
the fetishism of commodities arises in the social nature of capitalist 
production. The individual makes contact with his fellow worker 
only through the exchange in the market and, hence, directly be- 
tween products, only indirectly between producers. To man in 
the final stage of specialized labor, that of the capitalist factory 
system, "the relations connecting the labor of one individual with 
that of the rest appear, not as direct social relations between individ- 
uals at work, but as what they really are, material relations be- 
tween persons and social relations between things." 16 

The many effects of the alienation of man from himself and his 
society can be listed: 

15. Karl Marx, Okonomisch-philosophische Manuskripte as translated in 
Herbert Marcuse, Reason and Revolution: Hegel and the Rise of Social Theory, 
p. 277. New York: Oxford University Press, 1941. 

1 6. Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. I, p. 44. Translated by S. Moore and E. Aveling. 
Edited by F. Engels. New York: International Publishers Co., 1939 (edition pre- 
pared by D. Torr) . 


i. The division of labor separates the interests of the individual from 
the interests of the community; here the community is taken to mean 
the common interests of all individuals who have social intercourse 
with one another. 

'2. In the crudest manner, it has split the several human jobs from one 
another; we may illustrate by the contrasts of happiness vs. work, in- 
tellectual vs. manual labor, production vs. consumption; and we re- 
mark that the socialist proposal is to reunite these dichotomies. 

3. It has transformed the worth of the human person into material value, 
the money value of his labor. 

4. It gives the social relationships among men an independent, uncon- 
trolled existence, to which men are victims; thus the economic crises of 
the market have directed the decisions and lives of men (and the pos- 
sibility of their control will be seen to be a central issue between 
socialists and capitalists)^ 

5. It intensifies with the years, forcing the specialization of function to 
such a narrow and monotonous degree that man is reduced to being 
the merest fragment of his potential ability, and he comes to serve as 
an appendage to the machine. The economist must recognize that this 
social process treats man as a thing, thereby concealing his human con- 
tent by suppression. What is necessary is to see that the economic re- 
lations of the impersonal corporate market are really between men, 
and, in the uncovering of these depressing relations among men, one 
will find the possibility of change. 

The change, as had already been suggested, can be attained by 
actively socializing the social relations to match the productive 
relations; but the process is hardly Marxian socialism if it rests 
-there. State, or community ownership, is not socialism but simply 
the old property-ownership principle seized by a new owner. The 
people must become socially conscious; the promise of democratic 
self-government can only be realized in the full, mass participation 
of socialist democracy; men and women must freely recognize 
the desirability of their labor; and the accelerated achievements of 
science must finally eliminate the drudgery of necessities, with an 
accompanying release of universal, creative labor. The promise of 
the Marxist vision is of man united with himself, his comrades, and 
his world. And finally we must emphasize that to Marxists this is 
no automatic and inevitable achievement, for the very notion of 
such a mechanical inevitability denies the creative human essence. 
"What we build, cannot be built with passive people." 17 

17. A. A. Zhdanov, as quoted by John Lewis in the UNESCO symposium, 
Human Rights, p. 69. London: Allan Wingate, Ltd., 1949. 

COHEN 193 

Educational Principles 


Marxists believe that the classless society will preserve the 
highest values of preceding times. The old values are not annihi- 
lated, but, in the dialectical sense, they are preserved and tran- 
scended, fulfilled and developed. In fact, the charge that capitalist 
society (and other earlier class-ridden societies) tends periodically 
to nullify the fruits of its own productive genius by depressions or 
war has a parallel in the life of culture. Class society has produced 
Utopias, ideal visions of brotherhood, and vistas of heaven. Its sons 
and daughters have had noble thoughts, and in its times of healthy 
growth its cultural institutions have been based upon principles of 
humanity and morality. Of course, in its sickness and decay, it has 
spawned evils to match its economic inhumanity, such as racism, 
cultural sadism, monstrosities for its young, 18 moronic sensationalism 
for its adults, varieties of fascism at all levels. But the cultural 
heritage is tremendous, human greatness bursting the bonds of insti- 
tutionalized exploitation. The list of writers alone is endless, Shake- 
speare, Milton, Bunyan, Swift, Byron, Dickens, Shelley, Burns, 
Blake, and Shaw, to name but a few English authors whose works 
are cherished by Marxists. What the social revolution will do is, 
in the most elemental sense, to bring their own heritage to the con- 
sciousness of the people. This is only a preliminary, of course, but 
the denial of full participation in the operation of the economic 
order has been matched by a denial of experience in the cultural 
order- Education from the experience and creation of their fellow- 
men will be a foundation of a free society. 

The educational effect of the capitalist order, in Marxist eyes, 
has been the continuation of widespread illiteracy and ignorance on 
the one hand and the degradation of the ideal of public education 
on the other. What is important in this severe judgment is its em- 
phasis on the situation of the masses of men and women. Such 
harsh descriptions may be true even while earnest efforts are made 
with smaller groups to create a more responsible art, science, and 

1 8. For a sharp attack on American culture as it affects children, written from 
the vantage point of Marxism, sec Albert Kahn, The Game of Death (New 
York: Cameron & Kahn, 1953); and, on general culture, the recent files of 
Masses and Mainstream (New York, monthly since March, 1948). 


education. The discrepancy between our massive realities, such as 
those revealed in the draft rejections of the Second World War, and 
our undoubted insights into the tasks and possibilities of education 
seem to be but one more instance of that moral disease of practical 
hypocrisy which infects capitalism. Its own cliches reveal the 
hypocrisy: Sunday morality, the man who pays the piper calls 
the tune, porkbarrel politics, muckraker, free enterprise, white man's 
burden. The first claim of socialism in the cultural sphere is its 
cure of practical hypocrisy. At present, we cannot take advantage 
of the undoubted achievements in educational thinking, for three 
reasons: (a) The society, with rarest exceptions, persists in material 
impoverishment of its schools and teachers, (b) Those who reason 
most acutely about the function and nature of education, whatever 
their philosophy, have little to do with policy, even less with prac- 
tice. 19 Finally, (c) our thinkers, even at their most critical re- 
action to educational procedures, have frequently illustrated weak- 
nesses of their society rather than criticized it. As the nineteenth- 
century Russian liberal, Alexander Herzen, remarked: "We are not 
the doctors; we are the disease." 

Who shall be taught? What shall we teach? How shall we teach? 
Who will be the teachers? And who will teach the teachers? The 
answers to these questions, for any society, would furnish the 
sharpest analysis of that society. The universal values of a demo- 
cratic order face each generation anew, to be accepted and lived, 
or to be rejected and destroyed, or perhaps to be accepted but 
ignored. Jefferson's words strike at the heart of the democratic 
sustenance: "Educate and inform the whole mass of the people. 
They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty." 
Democracy means mass participation and self-government, and it 
depends on individuals who are free, rational, informed, responsible, 
loyal, and capable of brotherly love. Surely these are the qualities 
which should be taught. They imply the goals of schools for de- 

19. This may seem too strong for the case of John Dewey, though his most 
ardent disciples also complain that what is called "progressive" in practice is 
seldom what Dewey intended. For an analysis which supports the Marxist con- 
tention that pragmatism in education as elsewhere is least satisfactory on the 
most important issues of society, and hence hardly acute, see Alexander Meikle- 
john's incisive chapters on the pragmatic episode in his Education between 
Two Worlds. New York: Harper & Bros., 1942. 

COHEN 195 

mocracy. And the great educational thinkers of modern Western 
civilization have recognized this, in their democratic moments, from 
the most striking, thoroughly Christian, universal proposals of Co- 
menius in the seventeenth century down to the most recent analyses 
of the function of education, such as those of Karl Mannheim. 20 
There seems to be no doubt that each society must direct its schools, 
so that a barbaric society will have schools for barbarians, 21 the 
Catholic society will have schools for Catholics, 22 the Protestant- 
capitalist society will develop a school tradition for its own pur- 
poses, 23 and a democratic society must unashamedly create schools 
which are partisan to democracy. The enormous difference between 
a slave society and a free society is not one between the authori- 
tative domination of one society and the lack of authority of the 
other. It is the quality of the domination which makes the difference. 
A dialectical relation between freedom and dependence, between 
liberty and order, between majority rule and minority rights, and 
between the manipulation of an advertising age and the free assent 
of a self-governing society will account for human freedom by un- 
derstanding the sources of freedom. Freedom arises from an unfree 
world. And, to every helpless child anew, freedom must be taught. 
There is no getting round the insight of Rousseau in his discussion 
of sovereignty; reversing his sentences, we find him saying: 

Only the recognition by the individual of the rights of the community 
can give legal force to undertakings entered into between citizens, which, 

20. On Comcnius, see Meiklcjohn, ibid., chap, ii, and also the Marxist appre- 
ciation by Professor J. D. Bernal in The Teacher of Nations (Cambridge: Cam- 
bridge University Press, 1942), more conveniently available in Bernal's volume 
of essays, The Freedom of Necessity (London: Routlcdge & Kegan Paul, Ltd., 
1949), pp. 161-69; on Mannheim, see Man and Society in an Age of Reconstruc- 
tion (New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1949), and also Freedom, Power, and 
Democratic Planning (New York: Oxford University Press, 1950), especially 
chaps, vii and x. 

21. The teacher and parent should occasionally reread Erika Mann's moving 
account of the Nazi education system in School for Barbarians (New York: 
Modern Age Books, 1938). 

22. See M. O'Leary, The Catholic Church and Education (London: Burns 
Oates & Washburn), and the brief but revealing articles by M. C. D'Arcy on 
"Roman Catholicism," Charles Bilodeau on education in "Quebec," Joseph 
Vialatoux on "Christianity and Secularism," and the anonymous contribution 
on "Spain," all in the Yearbook of Education, 1951 (London: Evans Brothers, 
Ltd., and the University of London Institute of Education, 1951). 

23. Meildejohn, op. cit., especially Bk. I. 


otherwise, would become absurd, tyrannical, and exposed to vast abuses 
. . . which is no more than to say that it may be necessary to compel a 
man to be free. 24 

All education begins in compulsion. It will be the singular achieve- 

__ .,_ LJI , , , . ~ JB !- .->- .. . -,.. ^ j.. , ' W 

ment ortfie true teacher to convert this to free learning. Every 
school is initially a hall of indoctrination, but the democratic school 
becomes the scene of advocacy of ideas to the exclusion of in- 
doctrination with ideas. Every system of pedagogy is "an instrument 
of national policy"; 25 our judgment of the system must, therefore, 
be a part of our evaluation of the national policy. When the national 
policy is one of self-government, then it becomes policy to teach 
children and adults to think for themselves, since governors can 
never wilfully deny themselves facts and theories about facts. The 
most rabid censor does not censor himself. 

One may put this point in critical fashion. The liberal democrat, 
in the name of self-government, confuses freedom with license; 
similarly, the liberal educationist, in the name of individuality, con- 
fuses discipline with dogmatic authority; and each, in the hypocriti- 
cal setting of capitalism, is but following the capitalist himself who, 
in the name of freedom, confuses monopoly and oligopoly with free 
enterprise. The confusion hits education with particular strength, 
for the contradictions of the social and economic order receive their 
most heightened mental focus on the questions of the young. 

The most general form of stating these Marxist reflections has 
three parts: 

1. The inability of capitalist democracy to fulfil its promise of material 
and spiritual abundance, as demonstrated by economic crises and the 
disharmonies of class, race, and religion, is also demonstrated by its in- 
ability to fulfil our educational heritage. 

2. The fulfilment of education means: 

a) The opportunity to do so, in adequate schools, with an abundance 
of teaching equipment, by teachers of cultural as well as technical 

24. J. J. Rousseau, The Social Contract, Bk. I, chap, viii, in the translation by 
Gerard Hopkins (London and New York: Oxford University Press, 1947, in 
the volume Social Contract: Essays by Locke, Hume, and Rousseau. Edited by 
E. Barker. The World's Classics, Vol. DXI). 

25. "Education as an instrument of national policy" is the theme of the report 
by the presidents of Harvard, Yale, Columbia, and other American universities 
and school systems, presented to the National Education Association under the 
title American Education and International Tensions (Washington: Educational 
Policies Commission of the National Education Association, 1949). 



training, in co-operative enterprise with parents, with an educational 
profession of social eminence, and throughout all ages and groups 
of society. 

b) The full transformation of educational practice from its present 
support of the myths as well as the sins of a class society to the 
classless education of socialist democracy. 26 

c) The union of hand and brain by co-ordinated study and practical 
experience in the principles, methods, and achievements of science 
and technology. 

d) The achievement of democratic practice in the classroom and on 
the campus, through procedures of self-government, by explora- 
tions of alternative paths to truth in each problematic situation, by 
living experience with classmates from various cultural and eco- 
nomic backgrounds. 

3. While genuine education can take place only in a society which is no 
longer rent by economic class divisions and cultural prejudices, it is, 
nevertheless, true that the educator who seeks to understand human 
history and who has come to agree with the Marxist analysis of his 
own society will find enormous scope for humane social contributions 
in our own day: 

a) In his attitude to pupils, colleagues, parents, and the public. 

b) In his conception of discipline, and in his techniques of criticism 
see later section of this chapter, "Anton Makarenko"). 

c) In his interpretation of history, and his bringing of historical in- 
terpretation to the study of literature, religion, arts, and science, 
and hence in his rendering of the curriculum into a humanity- 
centered unity. 

d) In his co-operation with all those who are frustrated by the existing 
order and who will themselves be freed by social advance of some 
form, and also with those who, in so many ways and places, fre- 
quently unexpected, cherish the promise of brotherhood enough 
to perceive that brotherhood needs to be achieved in action rather 
than merely in their own moods. 

26. Although the situation varies from state to state, even city to city, never- 
theless as myths which are rarely questioned in American schools, one may list 
the beliefs in: ease of social mobility, freedom of business enterprise, funda- 
mental choices in political elections, divine, or at least constitutional, sanctions 
for a capitalist economic system, democratic character of the present jury sys- 
tem. As sins of the majority of American schools, one may confine one's self to 
sins of omission and list: the lack of attention to minority religions, the abysmal 
ignoring of Negro history and of the contributions of American Negroes to 
American history, the catastrophic decrease in scientific interest with an attend- 
ant quasi-mystic and quasi-hostile attitude to science, the total neglect of ex- 
plicit training in logical thinking, the tendency to cut off vocational training 
from the cultural experience of the liberal arts, the enormous vogue of psycho- 
logical tests and the static fixing of students by intelligence quotients, the fre- 
quent combination of fear, hostility, and arrogance on the part of teachers and 
administrators toward parents' participation in the educational part of the edu- 
cational enterprise (as contrasted with school lunches, political pressuring, chari- 
ties, and parents' education). 


American sociologists have remarked that we have two educational 
contradictions at work in our midst. People never tire of stating 
and applauding that their children are being taught to think for 
themselves, and yet the same people are terrified when the children 
do. Likewise, they come to despise teachers who have taught children 
to think without the fetters of prejudice because these teachers are 
always "radicals." 27 The underlying truth seems to be that class 
society needs two lands of education, and within a nominally dem- 
ocratic framework these lands still emerge. Discussion of the goals 
and methods of education, from a Marxist point of view, is also 
criticism of education under capitalism. Under each system there 
are many variations, nuances of thought and feeling as well as con- 
ditions of social health and social sickness. Sometimes the temptation 
arises to compare the theory and ideal of capitalist thinkers with 
that of Marxist thinkers, but this is a false contrast because the 
Marxist often recognizes the value of the capitalist thought while 
denying the possibility of its application under capitalism. Far more 
useful than a sociological investigation is the statement of Marxist 
principles in positive fashion. The contrast with capitalist theories of 
one sort or another, and in particular the contrast with capitalist 
practice, here, in Europe, and in the many economically dependent 
countries of both hemispheres, will be evident. 


We return to the analysis of industrial man. The outstanding 
feature of his objective life, in the main, is that he has become a 
factory worker. The disturbing aspect of his subjective life is his 
emotional divorce from what is so distinctively human, the use of 
labor to make his world. As a sound basis for education, it would be 
necessary to have a sound social relation to the labor process. The 
meaningful and educative value of labor must be re-examined, and 
yet this is only possible when society is reconstructed. A society 

27. Thus, the former Communist, Bella Dodd, revealed the supposedly heinous 
crimes against American children committed by Communist teachers by the 
following answer to a query as to her purpose in life when a Communist: "My 
purpose at that time I thought my purpose was to create an open mind, to 
create a clear-thinking people people who would throw aside all preconceived 
prejudices, all preconceived thought. My thought was to teach people how to 
think." (From record of the U.S. Senate subcommittee on internal security, 
"Subversive Influence in the Educational Process," January 2, 1953, p. 18). 

COHEN 199 

which harmonizes its productive forces with the human relations 
involved with productive technology is alone able to practice the 
social harmony of all its people. Likewise, only in_a genuinely 
equalitarian and co-operative society can education become a con- 
structive force and the equal development of all potential abilities 
be realized. Only then can the breach between intellectualism, ab- 
straction, ideals, and theory, on the one hand, and practice, tech- 
nology, science, and realities 1 on the other, be healed. 

In a society in which work is honored and none live without 
labor, education will be linked with the actual mastery of the 
material environment. It is worth quoting Marx at some length on 
the basis of education for industrial man: 

Paltry as the education clauses of the Act (British Factory Act of 
1864) appear on the whole, yet they proclaim elementary education to be 
an indispensable condition to the employment of children. The success 
of those clauses proved for the first time the possibility of combining edu- 
cation and gymnastics with manual labour, and, consequently, of com- 
bining manual labour with education and gymnastics. The factory in- 
spectors soon found out by questioning the schoolmasters, that the factory 
children, although receiving only one-half the education of the regular 
day scholars, yet learnt quite as much and often more. . . . From the 
Factory system budded, as Robert Owen has shown us in detail, the germ 
of the education of the future, an education that will, in the case of every 
child over a given age, combine productive labour with instruction and 
gymnastics, not only as one of the methods of adding to the efficiency 
of production, but as the only method of producing fully developed hu- 
man beings. 

The varied, apparently unconnected, and petrified forms of the in- 
dustrial processes now resolved themselves into so many conscious and 
systematic applications of natural science to the attainment of given use- 
ful effects. Technology also discovered the few main fundamental forms 
of motion, which, despite the diversity of the instruments used, are 
necessarily taken by every productive action of the human body; just 
as the science of mechanics sees in the most complicated machinery 
nothing but the continual repetition of the simple mechanical powers. 

Modern Industry never looks upon and treats the existing form of a 
process as final. The technical basis of that industry is therefore revolu- 
tionary, while all earlier modes of production were essentially conserva- 

"Modern Industry . . . through its catastrophes imposes the necessity 
of recognising, as a fundamental law of production, variation of work, 
consequently fitness of the labourer for varied work, consequently the 
greatest possible development of his varied aptitudes. It becomes a ques- 
tion of life and death for society to adapt the mode of production to the 
normal functioning of this law. Modern Industry, indeed, compels society, 


under penalty of death, to replace the detail-worker of to-day, crippled 
by lifelong repetition of one and the same trivial operation, and thus re- 
duced to the mere fragment of a man, by the fully developed individual, 
fit for a variety of labours, ready to face any change of production, and 
to whom the different social functions he performs, are but so many modes 
of giving free scope to his own natural and acquired powers. 

One step already spontaneously taken towards effecting this revolution 
is the establishment of technical and agricultural schools, and of "ecoles 
d'enseignement professional," in which the children of the working-men 
receive some little instruction in technology and in the practical handling 
of the various implements of labour. Though the Factory Act, that first 
and meagre concession wrung from capital, is limited to combining 
elementary education with work in the factory, there can be no doubt 
that when the working class comes into power, as inevitably it must, 
technical instruction, both theoretical and practical, will take its proper 
place in the working-class schools. There is also no doubt that such revolu- 
tionary ferments, the final result of which is the abolition of the old 
division of labour, are diametrically opposed to the capitalistic form of 
production, and to the economic status of the labourer corresponding to 
that form. But the historical development of the antagonisms, immanent 
in a given form of production, is the only way in which that form of 
production can be dissolved and a new form established. "Let the cobbler 
stick to his last" this gem of handicraft wisdom became sheer nonsense, 
from the moment the watchmaker Watt invented the steam-engine, the 
barber Arkwright, the throstle, and the working- jeweller, Fulton, the 
steamship. (John BeDers, a very phenomenon in the history of political 
economy, saw most clearly at the end of the i7th century, the necessity 
for abolishing the present system of education and division of labour, 
which beget hypertrophy and atrophy at the two opposite extremities of 
society. Amongst other things he says this: "An idle learning being little 
better than the learning of idleness. . . . Bodily labour, it's a primitive 
institution of God- . . . Labour being as proper for the body's health as 
eating is for its living; for what pains a man saves by ease, he will find in 
disease. . . . Labour adds oyl to the lamp of life, when thinking inflames 
it. ... A childish silly employ leaves the children's minds silly." Proposals 
for raising a college of industry of all useful trades and husbandry. Lon- 
don, 1696, pp. 12, 14, i8.) 28 

Hence we can understand why Soviet theory has stressed the 
role of the workshop, the laboratory, and the relations of the 
school to the local community, to the local factory, to the nearest 
co-operative farm, to the larger provincial and even national in- 

28. Karl Marx, Capital, loc. cit. y pp. 488-89 and 492-95. For the programmatic 
use of these principles, see, for example, V. I. Lenin, Materials Relating to the 
Revision of the Party Prograimne, section on the proposed state constitution 
in Selected Works, Vol. VI, pp. 118-19. New York: International Publishers 
Co., 1943. 

COHEN 201 

dustrialization projects, and to the vast agricultural and reforesta- 
tion schemes. There is no conflict between the understanding of the 
principles of science and an immersion in the problems of the local 
manufacturing plant; on the contrary, the latter (or its reflection 
in the problems of the school situation) are the basis for the pupil's 
personal involvement in scientific understanding. 29 In the process of 
his twelve years of public education, the student will become ac- 
quainted with the reality and the scientific basis of the fundamental 
forms of social production, the techniques and basic tools as well as 
the mental skills and theoretical understanding. And he will have 
teachers who break decisively with all purely verbal methods of 
passive education. The twin evils of pure verbalism and pure 
vocationalism will, in this manner, be avoided. They are so evident 
in American schools, appearing now as the shop course, or as the 
vocational trades or secretarial curriculum, now as the college pre- 
paratory but technologically illiterate high-school or private pre- 
paratory-school curriculum, now as the Great Books program in 
adult education, now as the technical improvement program for 
adults in one trade or other. It is necessary that these evils be 
avoided by denying the values of neither practical nor theoretical 
education, of neither practical citizenship nor liberal and humane 

To the maxim that all teaching be organized about the recogni- 
tion and practice of human labor is added the principle that educa- 
tion should be based on the purposive, creative, and independent 
act of the pupil. It is necessary, in utilizing the creativeness of each 
boy and girl, to avoid any idealization, and in particular to avoid 
the creation of a sentimental Utopian school community, unattached 
to the world for which all education is a preparation. More than 
a preparation, education can become a guide for the world itself. 
The school turns outwards to the world instead of inwards in itself 
via traditional or Utopian progressive lines. As the eminent French 
Marxist physicist, Paul Langevin, expressed this: 

An organic liaison between the school and its surroundings. . . . The 
school should unite with nature and with life, often leaving the walls of 

29. See the article on "Science Teaching in General Education" by J. D. 
Bernal, op. cit., p. 135, for stimulating suggestions, and also the textbook by 
I. B. Cohen, Science: Servant of Man (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1949), for a 
non-Marxist attempt along similar lines. 


the classroom to return laden with experience and with observations, to 
enrich itself with reflexion and meditation, to learn how to record the 
expression and the representation of things seen, lived, or felt. It should 
feel itself constantly part and parcel of the outside world. . . . Thus the 
child's field of vision will widen progressively along with his discovery 
of his immediate world. This will enable him to find his place there, as 
well as in an ever widening circle. He will follow the true way of culture 
which goes from the near to the far, from the particular to the general, 
from the concrete to the abstract, from individuality to generality, from 
egocentric to altruistic interest. This is as true of his contact with men as 
it is of his contact with things. (La Pensee, Vol. I, No. i.) 

The importance of the school to a new socialist order, faced with 
problems of construction which are more difficult and complex 
than the problems of mere criticism, is enormous; and it would be so 
no matter how the transition to such a new order of society might 
be carried out. The problems are caused by the novelty of the social 
relations under socialism. The democratic electoral road to socialism 
of the capitalist democracies would lead to cultural and educational 
difficulties as serious as those of the violent road traversed in Russia 
and China. In every case, it is essential to avoid any pseudomilitant 
destruction or denial of the previous social order's culture: 30 and 
likewise in every case the education of those whose major life expe- 
rience has been under capitalist cultural forms must necessarily be 
one of respect and caution, of new experience and critical compari- 
son with the old. Hence the peculiar force for socialists of the 
common sentiment that it is on the young that urgent tasks will 
fall, and from the young that enthusiasm and fresh intelligence can 
be expected. 


There are four goals of Soviet education: general education, 
polytechnical, vocational, and aesthetic. It is important to distinguish 
these from one another, although their main character is clear. The 
emphasis on training in the central principles of industry, based on 
the Marxist outlook theoretically, has been a continuing goal of 
Soviet education for practical reasons. Lenin's slogan that com- 
munism can only be built with Soviets (i.e., co-operative councils) 

30. See, on this and related issues, Lenin's speech at the third All-Russian 
Congress of the Russian Young Communist League, October 2, 1920, "The Tasks 
of the Youth Leagues,'* op. cit., Vol. IX, pp. 467-83. 

COHEN 203 

and electrification was the sharpest of challenges to a country which 
had hardly begun to industrialize. Marx's disturbance at the "idiocy 
of rural life" in the Germany of his time could only have deepened 
had he been writing of the Russian peasantry of 1917, and a fortiori 
if he had seen the state of the primitive ethnic groups in the Rus- 
sian empire. The history of Soviet education, aside from a plethora 
of enthusiastic experiments of all types, shows two principal con- 
cerns: (a) the development in children of elemental virtues of the 
socially conscious and independently active citizen, and (b) the pro- 
vision of the gigantic quantities of qualified technical workers 
needed for industrial construction. The entire history is one of edu- 
cational urgency, marked frequently by sheer vocational methods, 
at other times by unrealistic communist moralizing, always by a 
shortage of trained teachers and equipment, but also by historical 
progress. There has always been an emphasis on care of the children, 
always attention to the growth of higher education, always enor- 
mous attention to workers' education in the arts as well as in the 
technological skills, and similar concerns for parents' education and 
nursery schools, for special cultural efforts in the development of 
previously illiterate peoples of the Soviet Union, for popular science 
and literature, for cultural clubs and societies at all social levels. The 
aims are those voiced by conscientious and democratic educational 
workers everywhere, whether socialist or not, although the em- 
phases may vary: to produce citizens for participation in their 
society's life with a feeling of belonging, and with the qualities listed 
in a previous section (see p. 194), as requisite for the participating, 
self-governing citizen; to prepare men and women for creative en- 
joyment of life; and to prepare them for intelligent contributions to 
the production and advancement of the material basis of society. 81 
The role of polytechnical training is significant in that it assists 
the general, vocational, and civic training without eliminating them. 
It does not mean instruction in everything and every process; this 

31. For a penetrating account of the Soviet views on self-government and 
democracy, see E. H. Carr "The Soviet Impact on the Western World" (New 
York and London: Macmillan Co., 1946). See also the several Marxist contri- 
butions to the UNESCO volume Democracy in a World of Tensions (Chicago: 
University of Chicago Press, 1951), especially those of H. Lefebvre, P. Sweezy, 
R. Schlesinger, B. Hovarth, and R. McKeon's essay on "Philosophical Differ- 
ences and the Issues of Freedom," Ethics, LXI (1951), 105-35. 


would be a silly and impossible proposal, and moreover it ignores the 
pace of scientific and technological change. What is needed is 
understanding of principles, and the curricular problem is to choose 
a complete set of principles. Such understanding will make workers 
into intelligent men. As recently as 1952 the demand for such edu- 
cation was again stated by Stalin, in a discussion of the conditions 
preliminary to a real (as contrasted with, to use his word, a merely 
"declaratory") transition to communism: 

It is necessary, in the third place, to ensure such a cultural advancement 
of society as will secure for all members of society the all-round develop- 
ment of their physical and mental abilities, so that the members of society 
may be in a position to receive an education sufficient to enable them 
to be active agents of social development, and in a position freely to 
choose their occupations and not be tied all their lives, owing to the 
existing division of labor, to some one occupation. 

What is required for this? 

It would be wrong to think that such a substantial advance in the cul- 
tural standard of the members of society can be brought about without 
substantial changes in the present status of labor. For this, it is necessary, 
first of all, to shorten the working day at least to six, and subsequently to 
five hours. This is needed in order that the members of society might 
have the necessary free time to receive an all-round education. It is 
necessary, further, to introduce universal compulsory poly technical edu- 
cation, which is required in order that the members of society might be 
able freely to choose their occupations and not be tied to some one oc- 
cupation all their lives. . . . 

Only after all these preliminary conditions are satisfied in their en- 
tirety may it be hoped that work will be converted in the eyes of the 
members of society from a nuisance into "the prime necessity of life" 
(Marx), that "labor will become a pleasure instead of a burden" (Engels), 
and that social property will be regarded by all members of society as 
the sacred and inviolable basis of the existence of society. 

Only after all these preliminary conditions have been satisfied in their 
entirety will it be possible to pass from the socialist formula, "from each 
according to his ability, to each according to his work," to the com- 
munist formula, "from each according to his ability, to each according 
to his needs." 32 

32. Joseph Stalin, Economic Problems of Socialism in the U.SS.R., pp. 52- 
53 (New York: International Publishers Co., 1952). This passage is the third 
of three conditions. The first two are concerned with (a) continued expansion 
of production, and especially of the production of means of production, and, of 
more theoretical interest, (/;) the contradictions between the economic pro- 
ductive forces of present Soviet socialism and the social relations among men 
in present Soviet society, viewed as a cultural lag which can be overcome 
through critical intelligence. This second point illustrates the Marxist thesis that 
ideas and mental life can be of independent force, and that the absence of class 

COHEN 205 

It may be helpful to list some practical results of the renewed em- 
phasis on polytechnical education. 

1 i ) It teaches the skill in work which every citizen should have, 
whatever the occupation he may choose, or change to. 

(2) Since electricity is so basic to contemporary industry, the 
general school must provide the pupils with understanding and 
practical knowledge of the methods of generating electrical power, 
transmitting it, and using it in the factories, on the farms, in trans- 
portation and communication, and in the home. Polytechnical edu- 
cation in school is likewise a prerequisite before science study in in- 
stitutions of higher education. 

(3) The thorough grounding of modern life in a machinery 
technology requires that students understand the general scientific 
principles of function and structure of machines, including the 
electric motor, the steam engine, the internal combustion engine, the 
turning lathe, and as soon as feasible the newer propellant devices, 
and the physical principles of atomic energy, although direct prac- 
tical acquaintances with the latter would have to be achieved by 
special means. The former types of machinery are used in the 
school life itself, for example in the many children's railways, run 
by and for children. 

(4) The chemistry of the most important substances and the 
methods of utilizing them shall be studied, again by a fusion of 
chemical theory and industrial practice. 

(5) The theory and practical means for understanding and con- 
trolling growth of plants and animals, and with it the electrical, 
mechanical, and chemical transformations of scientific agriculture 
are also necessary. 

(6) Each region, town, or other center of practical activity, such 
as the railroad industry, should have its own focus of technical 
training in the school. But it is important that polytechnical edu- 
cation be developed in the full context of general education. The 
latter includes the principles of the natural sciences, taken as theory, 
observation, and experiment, knowledge of mathematics and logic, 

division will release men from uncritical bondage to their economic environ- 
ment. The case in point which stimulated the Stalin discussion is the existence 
of commodity circulation in the U.S.S.R., and connected with that the existence 
of small group, or collective farm, property. 


and of man in society. While Soviet writers have not dwelt much 
on the subject, it would seem that the history of science, seen in all 
its social, economic, cultural, and philosophical ramifications, might 
be a crucial subject to unify this extensive education. It is science 
that represents one of the most humane of man's activities, and in 
the study of the history of science one can develop the themes of 
the humanities. Science, seen in this light, is the fusion of man's 
abilities, his labor, his transformations of the world, his release of his 
own creativities, his social co-operation, his free and ranging in- 
tellect, his transformation of himself. And, likewise, in the history 
of science can be seen all the social and natural forces that help 
and hinder human development. The study of the development of 
science (including the social sciences, of which the history of sci- 
ence is one) can be the unifying theme, and also it can be the 
open door to the arts, to philosophy, to ethics, and to political 

(7) Some thought can be devoted to the general theme of power 
and techniques. At the technical level this can take the form of a 
special course for secondary-school students in their final year, based 
on all the many years of scientific and specialized training, specifical- 
ly expounding the foundations of technology. Some think such a 
special course may not be necessary and that it is preferable to in- 
tegrate technique and science completely, rewriting texts, syllabi, 
and introducing factory and farm visits, and so forth. In any case, the 
student will become self-confident, intelligently aware of his role 
wherever he may work, a better worker, and a better citizen. 

The net result of polytechnical education will be the transforma- 
tion of man as worker. But the ultimate result, as intimated in 
Stalin's remarks just quoted, and as envisioned in present Soviet, 
American, and other examples of almost completely automatic fac- 
tories, 33 will be the nearly complete transcendance of the stage of 
productive labor. Here the Marxist refusal to become Utopian about 
the future may result in some confusion of present or future edu- 
cational thinking. For the question, "What is the nature of man?" 

33. See, for example, V. Apresian, "The Future in the Present: An Automatic 
Automobile Piston Plant," VOKS Bulletin, 1953, no. 2, p. 33 (Moscow: U.S.S.R. 
Society for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries, 1953), and the special 
issue on automatic controls, especially the article by E. Ayres, "An Automatic 
Chemical Plant," in Scientific American, CLXXXVII (September, 1952). 

COHEN 207 

must be answered for the future communist society in positive 
affirmation rather than by negative criticism of historical conditions. 
The implication of this question has been connected with that of 
another question, "How do men gain knowledge?" This is an open 
problem for Marxist philosophy, though the most active research in 
the U.S.S.R. and elsewhere is being devoted to the understanding 
of psychology, higher physiology of the nervous system, and edu- 
cational psychology. It is beyond the scope of this essay to indi- 
cate more than two obvious points: (a) the materialist basis of 
sensation and activity will provide postulates for a theory of learn- 
ing, and (b) neither the individual inheritance nor the supposedly 
automatic effect of environment will be acceptable as an under- 
standing of the development of the individual child. Neither nature 
nor nurture will do, for the latter is not a rigidifying limit on 
growth of the child's humanity and the former is itself being 
changed by the child and his society. The direction of this technical 
thinking may be indicated by a brief statement of Pavlov, written in 
1930: "The chief, strongest, and most permanent impression we 
get from the study of higher nervous activity by our methods is 
the extraordinary plasticity of this activity, and its immense potenti- 
alities; nothing is immovable or intractable, and everything may al- 
ways be achieved, changed for the better, provided only that the 
proper conditions are created." The result of knowledge that con- 
firms and carries on this impression would obviously be of utmost 
significance for education. 34 


"It would be better for men to be deprived of education than to 
receive their education from their masters, for education in that 
sense is no better than the training of cattle that are broken to 
the yoke." 35 Thomas Hodgskin. 

I shall conclude this essay on the intimate relations between 
Marxist social philosophy and educational theory with some excerpts 
from the writings of Makarenko, the great teacher of the Marxist 

34. Some references to literature on these matters are given in the bibliog- 

35. Quoted from Hodgskin, Labor Defended, p. 10. London: Labour Publish- 
ing Co., n.d. 


tradition, the creator of perhaps the most impressive demonstration 
of the Marxist view of human nature. 86 

It would be difficult to find teachers to match Makarenko. Nor 
would it be a simple matter to find teaching situations as depressing 
in their original character as that which faced him after the Revolu- 
tion. He was persuaded to take charge of a government colony of 
homeless children, orphans, delinquents, waifs, toughs, and criminals, 
from small children to adolescent youths. Equipped with courage 
and an unbelievable faith in the human material, and with a fortu- 
nate ignorance of advanced thinking about "delinquents," he pro- 
ceeded to demonstrate the potential ability and goodness of the 
young. The stories of the Gorki and Dzerjhinski colonies have been 
told in his extraordinary "pedagogical poem" (as he called it), The 
Road to Life. 37 

In it, the reader sees the detailed incidents which gave structure 
to his thought and flesh to the proposal of Marx that the communal 
life will educate the socialist man. At a time when it was deemed 
progressive in Russia to cultivate the pure spontaneity of the child 
and his learning process, Makarenko was acting on that combina- 
tion of discipline, understanding, individual growth and community 
devotion which later became the foundation of educational thinking 
in the U.S.S.R. Many schools of thought about education would 
accept these four ideals. What distinguishes Makarenko's method 
are his views on (a) the role of necessary labor, (b) the character 
of self-criticism and mutual criticism, (c) the creative role of the 
collective, growing as a unit out of the raw group, in the education 
of the members of the group, (d) the social and joyful character of 
incentives, (e) the positive value of aesthetic tradition, and (f ) the 
sense of the mean. 

36. The excerpts are culled from his major work, The Road to Life; from the 
short biography by W. L. Goodman, A. S. Makarenko, Russian Teacher (Lon- 
don: George Roudedge & Kegan Paul, Ltd., 1949); from an essay by Francis 
Lawrence, "Alakarenko: Pioneer of Communist Education," Modern Quarterly, 
VIII (Autumn, 1953)* 234-40; and from unpublished translations of passages 
from the Russian edition of his collected works, which were graciously made 
available to me by Mrs. Beatrice King. Aside from The Road to Life and 
A Book for Parents, availability of Makarenko's work in Western languages 
seems to be limited to German editions at present (for which see the bibliog- 

37. Translated by Ivy and Tatiana Litvinov. Moscow: Foreign Languages 
Publishing House; London: Collet's Holdings, 1951. 


The following selection of Makarenko's pronouncements may be 
regarded as illustrative of his thoughts and feelings. 

(a) We must teach the worker discipline ... we must develop in him 
the sense of duty and the sense of honor ... he must feel his own obli- 
gations toward his class. He must be able to subordinate himself to a 
comrade and he must be able to give orders to a comrade. He must know 
how to be courteous, severe, kind, and pitiless, depending on the cir- 
cumstance of his life and struggle. ... If the collective punishes him, 
he must respect both the collective and the punishment. 

(b) [Concerning the collectively administered punishment for a 
theft.] How could I explain that you cannot allow a community to feel 
itself helpless and weak, and that in our trial today we were teaching a 
lesson not to the offender nor to the four hundred separate colonists, but 
to the community itself? 

(c) I assert there can be no education without making demands. Per- 
sonally I arrived at the following principles. In a situation where I was 
not sure I could make demands I behaved as though I noticed nothing. 
I waited for the occasion when it was quite obvious to others as well as 
to me that I was right and I demanded the utmost. . . . From my first 
collective I did not demand that they should not steal. I knew that here 
I could not convince them at all. But I did demand that they should get 
up when necessary. They stole and for a time I ignored this. 

(d) I came to the conclusion that, paradoxical as it may seem, normal 
children or children brought up in normal surroundings are the most 
difficult of all to educate. They have a more complex nature, make more 
complicated demands on their teachers, need a deeper culture and a more 
varied adjustment of method. 

(e) I realized there are no delinquents but rather people who have 
fallen upon hardship. . . . Any normal child in the streets, lacking any 
help, outside society, outside a community, without friends or experi- 
ence, without hope, with frayed nerves, any normal child in such con- 
ditions would become a delinquent. . . . There are no delinquents but 
there are people no less endowed than I, with no less a right than I to 
a happy life, talented, capable of living and working, capable of happi- 
ness and creative work. With this realized there ceased to be a problem 
of re-education. I had the ordinary task of bringing up boys and girls 
to be real Soviet people, people of exemplary behavior. 

(f) No man can live without the prospect of tomorrow's happiness. 
In educational technique this happiness of the morrow becomes one of 
the teacher's most important objectives. In the first place happiness itself 
must be organized. . . . Then the simpler forms must be developed into 
the more complex, into forms of happiness with a wider human signifi- 
cance. Here we have a most interesting line, leading from the primitive 
satisfaction of a momentary fancy right up to the deepest emotions of 
duty and responsibility. . . . One could write a whole book of teaching 
method based on the organization of lines of perspective such as these, 
the utilization of those in existence, and the establishment of new and 


more worthy ambitions. To educate a man is to furnish him with a per- 
spective leading to the morrow's joy. 

(g) [With regard to the agricultural work of the Gorki colony and 
the technical manufacturing of the Dzerjhinski commune.] Questions of 
the industrial and financial plan, of technological processes, supplies, 
work on different components, apparatus, rationalization and control of 
norms and rates, of staff and the quality of personnel, pass daily before 
the members of the commune, who are not merely onlookers, but man- 
agers who cannot afford to neglect any question, for if they do there will 
be a hitch in the running of the concern. In the solution of these prob- 
lems members of the commune find, above all, scope for the application 
of their social energy, and this is not the energy of people who give up 
their personal life, it is the intelligent public activity of people who un- 
derstand that the public interest is also their personal interest. 

(h) [Apropos of the need for active human beings.] A good deal of 
the attention paid to the training of character is wrongly directed, to my 
mind. It is usually concentrated on the unruly element. This, of course, 
is highly necessary, but it by no means exhausts the problem; the timid 
and modest, the little, gentle Jesuses, the column dodgers, the wasters, 
the idlers, and the dreamers usually evade its influence. Yet these char- 
acteristics are in fact as harmful as any. 

(;') The accomplishment of joint tasks, mutual assistance and depend- 
ence on work of communal importance, these conditions alone make 
possible the creation of really effective moral relations between the 
separate members of a community. 

(;') I consider this to be the most important aim in our educational 
work, the sense of the mean, both in affection and in severity, in tender- 
ness and harshness, and even in our processes of law and in our games, 
our attitude to property and household affairs . . . only according to that 
principle is it possible to educate human beings, capable of great en- 
durance, and capable too of high endeavor, because only in this way can 
we truly develop the will. 

(k) At the beginning of our revolution, our educational writers and 
orators spread themselves over the West European vaulting horses, jumped 
very high, and easily caught such ideals as the "harmonious personality." 
Later they replaced this with "communist man," comforting themselves 
deep down in their soul that it was the same thing. Sometimes they broad- 
ened their ideal and said we must bring up a "fighter full of initiative" . . . 
[but] to talk about distant abstract ideals as the aim of education is in 
the Soviet Union to be wholly unrealistic. There is nothing eternal or 
absolute in our tasks. The demands of society are in fact limited to one 
epoch whose scope is more or less clearly defined. We can be absolutely 
sure that the demands made on the next generation will differ from those 
society made on us. 

(/) [On the demand for integrated and correlated education.] How 
many headaches we had over this cursed question! The youngsters are 
making a stool and this has to be correlated with geography and mathe- 
matics. I felt very bad indeed when a commission of inspection arrived 

COHEN 211 

and could find no correlation between a stool and Russian language. But 
then I waved my hand, and I affirmed that there does not have to be cor- 

(m) I already knew that children were not invariably influenced by 
the purely intellectual conviction that their esteem should be kept for 
those who showed them affection and kindness. I had long been convinced 
that the greatest degree of affection and respect on the part of children, 
especially the sort of children we had in the colony, was shown towards 
another type of person altogether. What are called high qualifications, 
confident and precise knowledge, understanding, skill, deft hands, spare- 
ness of words and complete abstention from grandiloquent phraseology 
and a steady will to work these are the qualities which attract children 
in the highest degree. 

You can be as dry as you like with them, severe to the point of captious- 
ness, you can give the impression of being completely indifferent to their 
sympathy, you can ignore them even if they are under your very nose; but 
if your work is good, your knowledge ready and accessible, you can set 
your mind at rest; they are all for you, and will never let you down. It 
does not matter how your skill may show itself, it does not matter in the 
least what you are, whether joiner, agronom, blacksmith, teacher, or 

On the other hand, however kind you may be, however much you may 
like to chat with them, however sympathetic you may be either in work 
or play; if all your work results in failure or disaster, if every step you 
take shows that you do not know your own business, if everything you do 
turns out to be rubbish or "junk," you will never get anything out of them 
except contempt, sometimes ironical and condescending, sometimes angry 
and resentful, sometimes capricious and importunate. 

(n) [On discipline and its relationship to consciousness.] Our disci- 
pline, in contrast to the old discipline, as a moral and political expression 
of social relationships, must be accompanied by a consciousness, [not by 
a spontaneity but] by a complete understanding what discipline means 
and what is its purpose. . . . First, as an expression of political and moral 
well-being it must be demanded from the collective that is the immediate 
community. It will not be achieved automatically by external measures 
or by occasional talks. No, the community must be approached with direct, 
clear, and definite demands . . . every pupil must be convinced that disci- 
pline is the best way of attaining the aims of the community. . . . Second, 
the logic of our discipline confirms that discipline places each individual 
personality in a position of greater security and freedom. Children easily 
understand the apparent paradox that discipline means freedom. . . . Disci- 
pline in the community is complete security, complete confidence in one's 
rights, in the paths one has chosen, in one's possibilities just exactly for 
each personality. . . . For this we had our revolution, that our personality 
shall be free, but the form of our society is discipline. 

(0) My fundamental principle has always been: the utmost possible 
demands on a person, but at the same time the utmost possible respect for 
him. One cannot demand great things of someone whom one does not 


We see in these discussions of Makarenko that union of subject 
and object so dear to the philosophy of Karl Marx, so necessary for 
the uniting of man's practical intellectual nature with his spiritual 
aesthetic nature. From being the object of the teacher's intentions 
the collective becomes the subjective teacher of its own members. 
Pure spontaneity is the illusion of the liberal idealist; but self-de- 
velopment and self-control really exist after the group has emerged 
as a community and culture in its own right, in response to an ob- 
jective demand and objective conditions. From discipline and respect 
emerge freedom and self-respect, Rousseau and Marx in practice. 

The Philosophy of Marxism 

A. Primary-source materials are conveniently available as follows: 

LENIN, V. I. Selected Works (in twelve volumes); some separate editions in 
the Marxist-Leninist Library, and an incomplete Collected Works. New York: 
International Publishers Co. [A useful two-volume selection of Lenin's prin- 
cipal works, Essentials of Lenin, has been published in Moscow and is also 
published in London (Lawrence & Wishart)]. 

MARX, KARL, and ENGELS, FRIEDRICH. Selected Works (in two volumes) and also 
separate editions of many of their works in the Marxist-Leninist Library. 
New York: International Publishers Co. 

STALIN, JOSEPH. Selected Writings and his collected writings on Marxism and 
the National and Colonial Question as well as shorter separate works. New 
York: International Publishers Co. Also a collected English edition of his 
Works in some twelve volumes, now in process of publication. London: 
Lawrence & Wishart. 

B. Secondary materials of particular usefulness and clarity: 

CORNFORTH, MAURICE. Dialectical Materialism: An Introductory Course (in three 
volumes). I, Materialism and the Dialectical Method; II, Historical Material- 
ism; III, The Theory of Knowledge. New York: International Publishers Co., 
1953-55; and London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1952-55. 

. Readers 1 Guide to the Marxist Classics. London: Lawrence & Wishart, 


DODD, MAURICE. Political Economy and Capitalism. New York: International 
Publishers Co., 1945. 

HOOK, SIDNEY. From Hegel to Marx. New York: John Day Co., 1936. The 
only detailed study in English, although there are essays in such volumes as 
that edited by Lewis (below). 

LEE, OTIS. Existence and Inquiry. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1949. 

LEWIS, JOHN (Editor). Christianity and the Social Revolution. London: Victor 
Gollancz, Ltd.; New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1936. 

MARCUSE, HERBERT. Reason and Revolution: Hegel and the Rise of Social 
Theory. New York: Oxford University Press, 1941; and New York: Humani- 
ties Press, 1954 (second edition). 

MEHRING, FRANZ. Karl Marx: The Story of His Life. New York: Covici, Friede, 
1935; London: George Allen & Unwin, Ltd., 1950. 

COHEN 213 

SELSAM, HOWARD. Socialism and Ethics. New York: International Publishers 

Co., 1943. 

. What Is Philosophy? New York: International Publishers Co., 1939. 

Socialism and American Life, Vol. II, Bibliography. Edited by Egbert and 

Persons. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1952. (This must be used 

with some caution. See, e.g., the very critical review of both volumes by 

Robert S. Cohen in Monthly Review, IV [December, 1952], 289-304.) 
SWEEZY, PAUL M. The Theory of Capitalist Development: Principles of Marxian 

Political Economy. New York: Oxford University Press, 1946. 
VENABLE, VERNON. Human "Nature: The Marxian View. New York: Alfred A. 

Knopf, Inc., 1946. (Certain passages in the first section of this chapter of the 

yearbook are taken from this volume.) 
C. Illustrations of the Marxist approach to special problems: 
American scene: STEIN, GUNTHER. The World the Dollar Built. New York: 

Monthly Review Press, 1953. 

PERLO, V. American Imperialism. New York: International Publishers Co., 

Capitalist culture: CAUDWELL, CHRISTOPHER. Studies in a Dying Culture and 

Further Studies in a Dying Culntre. London: John Lane, I94S and 1950. 
China: MAO TSE-TUNG. Selected Works. London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1954; 

and New York: International Publishers Co., 1954. 
Drama: THOMSON, GEORGE. Aeschylus and Athens. New York: International 

Publishers Co., 1951. 
Great Britain: DUTT, R. P. The Crisis of Britain and the British Empire. New 

York: International Publishers Co., 1953. 
Historical events: The English Revolution, 1640. Edited by Christopher Hill. 

London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1949. 

PAGAN, H., and HILTON, R. H. The English Rising of 1381. London: Lawrence 
& Wishart, 1950. 

Ten Essays on the French Revolution. Edited by T. A. Jackson. Translated 

from the French. London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1945. 
India: DUTT, R. P. India Today. Bombay: People's Publishing House, 1949 

(second edition). 
Literary theory: CAUDWELL, CHRISTOPHER. Illusion and Reality. New York: 

International Publishers Co., 1948. 
Novels: LUKACS, GEORGE. Studies in European Realism. Translated by Edith 

Bone. London: Hillway Publishing Co., 1950. 
Philosophic schools: WELLS, HARRY K. Pragmatism. New York: International 

Publishers Co., 1954. 
Religion: KAUTSKY, KARL. Foundations of Christianity. New York: S. A. 

Russell, 1953. (This is a new translation by H. F. MINS.) 
Social relations of science: BKRNAL, J. D. The Social Function of Science. 

London: George Routledge & Sons, Ltd., and Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner, 

Ltd., 1938. 

Educational Developments 

A. Books: 

FEDIAVSKY, VERA. Nursery School and Parent Education in Soviet Russia. New 
York: E. P. Dutton & Co., 1936. 

JESSIPOW, B., and GONTCHAROW, N. Pddogogik. Berlin: Volk und Wissen Volk- 
seigener Verlag, 1953. (This is the only Western-language edition of the 
basic Soviet text on pedagogy. Some chapters have been translated, e.g., as a 
Bulletin of the (London) Society for Cultural Relations with the U.S.S.R., 


and also with editorial emendations as the book, 1 Want To Be Like Stalin. 
Edited by Counts and Lodge. New York: John Day Co., Inc., 1947. Despite 
its role in Soviet training of teachers, this book is quite inadequate on the 
work of Makarenko.) 

JOHNSON, WILLIAM H. E. Russia's Educational Heritage. Pittsburgh: Carnegie 
Press of the Carnegie Institute of Technology, 1950. 

KING, BEATRICE. Changing Man: The Education System of the U.SS.R. New 
York: Viking Press, 1937. (Weak on theory.) 

. Rmsta Goes to School. London: Heinemann, for the New Education 

Book Club, 1948. (Weak on theory.) 

MACLEECH, BERT. Workers Education in the United States. Unpublished Doc- 
tor's dissertation, Harvard University, 1951. (One of the very few Marxist 
works in the United States that goes beyond superficialities.) 
MAKARENKO, A. S. Ausgeivahlte Padagogische Schriften. Berlin: Volk und 
Wisscn Verlag, 1952. 

. A Book for Parents. Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1954. 

. Einige Schlussfolgenmgen aus meiner Padogogischen Erfahrung. Berlin: 

Volk und Wissen VerJag, 1952. 

. Learning To Live. Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing Co., 1953. 

(Original title: Flags on the Battlements.) (This is a sequel to The Road 
to Life. The English-language edition contains, as an appendix, a report of a 
discussion between the author and a group of readers about the issues of the 
book, held in 1938.) 

. The Road to Life. Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1951; 

London: Collet's Holdings, Ltd., 1951. (The essential quarry of Marxist edu- 

. Vortrage iiber Kinder erziehung. Berlin: Volk und Wissen Verlag, 1951. 

MORRIS, MAX. Your Children's Future. London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1953. 
(On the British educational system.) 

PINKEVITCH, A. P. The New Education in the Soviet Republic. New York: 
John Day Co., Inc., 1929. (Still essential to understanding the Soviet edu- 
cational scene.) 

SIMON, BRIAN. Intelligence Testing and the Comprehensive School. London: 
Lawrence & Wishart, 1953. 

SHORE, MAURICE. Soviet Education. New York: Philosophical Library, 1947. 
(This is a dull and unperccptive work, but it contains documentary materials 
not elsewhere available in English.) 

WORTIS, JOSEPH. Soviet Psychiatry. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins, 1950. 

B. Periodicals: 

Current Digest of the Soviet Press. Washington: Joint Committee on Slavic 
Studies. (Especially the education materials as indicated by the quarterly 

Marxist Quarterly (since 1954; previously known as Modern Quarterly.) In- 
terpretive articles. London: Lawrence & Wishart. 

and interpretive articles available from the Secretariat and sponsored by the 
Education and Medical sections in issues of: Education Bulletin, Medical 
Bulletin, Science Bulletin, and Anglo-Soviet Journal. 

Note: The quantity and variety of educational literature is so great that the 

interested reader should consult the usual index guides for further materials and 

studies on the developments of educational theory and practice in the Com- 
munist countries. 


Significance of Existence and Recognition 
for Education* 


Basic Orientation 

Existentialism is, as the word implies, a philosophy of human 
existence. It arose early in the nineteenth century in response to a 
cultural climate in which Soren Kierkegaard observed that men 
had forgotten what it means to exist. Men had learned what it 
means to be one of a crowd, to be a mass-man; they had forgotten 
what it means to be an individual, that is, what it means to die, to 
suffer, to decide, to love. They had forgotten what it means to stand 
apart, as each man is born to stand apart, from the rest of the 
universe and from one's fellows. They had forgotten what it means 
to stand apart in need of a Judge and Redeemer. 

Sometimes Kierkegaard phrased the situation of modern times in 
this way: Men no longer know what it is to become a Christian be- 
cause they no longer know what it is to exist. Christianity had be- 
come a game, its terminology and symbols glib counters for self- 
satisfied men who trusted worldly success and organization rather 
than either divine judgment or personal decision. Kierkegaard and 
existentialism were religiously oriented from the start. But it is im- 
portant to note the crucial difference of approach in this religious 
philosophy. It begins with the individual rather than with dogma or 
history. Dogma and history can reply to the situation in which 
human beings find themselves only when they are clear-sighted and 
honest and vigorous. Existentialism is thus an inductive philosophy, 
a philosophy in which diagnoses always outnumber prescriptions, 
however important the prescriptions may be. 

Kierkegaard himself illustrated the danger which existentialism 

* Educational Consultant: Robert Ulich, Harvard University. 


always runs, the snare of isolation. He set himself apart, in con- 
tempt, like Nietzsche, so far from other human beings, that in the 
end he isolated himself from God's forgiveness as well. But in an age 
when conventionality means more than individualityand ours is 
such an age the man who fights against mass values is likely to see 
no way of reconciling group interests, even Christian fellowship, 
with individual contemplation and decision, and may be tempted to 
tie himself up in his own subjectivity. Inwardness is self -paralyzing 
unless it understands its need for other individuals, a need not only 
to be filled but to fill. A man is a mortal thing, here for a brief 
while, born by chance at a chance place, affected by circumstances 
beyond its control throughout its short, uncertain life. What little 
play its being has is exercised when it makes all the multiple big and 
little choices from one minute to another. Man is a being that chooses 
its lot even by refusing choices, that dies, that is passionately inter- 
ested in a happiness that does not rest on chance and is not limited 
by death. In this sense, existentialism is unhistorical, concerned only 
with those features of our life that men have to experience in any 
age. What makes existentialism a child of history is that too many 
people in the nineteenth century had turned their whole beings away 
from what Kierkegaard called their inwardness, to what we now 
speak of as group interests. Dostoyevsky and Nietzsche, neither of 
whom had read Kierkegaard, argued in similar fashion. 

Today one can be an existentialist without knowing it. It is no 
longer exceptional to be one, as it was in the nineteenth century. 
Existentialism is no longer primarily a protesting of man against man; 
no longer is it a deliberate response to middle-class morality. On the 
contrary, it has, as Marxists have admitted, become the last strong- 
hold of middle-class consciousness and vitality. No longer is an 
existentialist, like Kierkegaard or Nietzsche, an isolated self-con- 
scious rebel of heroic or mock-heroic proportions. The hidden in- 
wardness that Kierkegaard fancied and finally rejected for others 
is now a widespread fact. Existentialism has seeped into the ways 
of thinking and living of many who would deny it most vehemently, 
associating the word with a nineteenth-century phenomenon. 

For the nineteenth-century existentialists, the key word was 
"isolation." And subjectivity was largely a matter of individual 
isolation, by way of personal choice. Neither Kierkegaard nor 


Nietzsche emphasized the natural isolation of death and tragedy. 
Rather, they stressed the isolation of the man who chooses, in a 
society in which choices and values are regarded as self-evident and 
fixed. And even the famous homelessness of Nietzsche in a world 
in which God was dead, came from Nietzsche's deliberate rejection 
of God, his murder of all previous values. Neither he nor Kierke- 
gaard was obsessed by the thing that obsessed Pascal, man's lostness 
in an indifferent universe. In this way, at least, Pascal is a herald of 
Camus and Heidegger, rather than of Kierkegaard. Neither Nietz- 
sche nor Kierkegaard trembled before the menace of chance and un- 
foreseen, unjustified misfortune. Both were, although they did not 
know it, children of middle-class self-sufficiency and had no sense 
of the mystery of man's lot in a universe that does not always seem 
to co-operate. Despite their surface complexity, these nineteenth- 
century figures were simple, obsessed by the danger to man of a 
society that, on the one hand, was moved increasingly by custom 
rather than by choice and, on the other hand, believed in the custom 
only in so far as it preserved a social stability. Thus, it is no accident 
that Kierkegaard could say that there were no longer any Christians, 
only a "play Christianity," while Nietzsche, independently of him, 
could say that God was dead at last, killed by man's disbelief in him. 
It is safe to say that almost no one today is unacquainted with 
isolation, but it is an isolation usually quite different from the self- 
confident isolation of these nineteenth-century writers and thinkers. 
It is an isolation more immediately associated with the great fact 
which they discovered, that God is dead. Nietzsche had said that 
hardly anyone knew about it in his time, that, like the light from 
a dead star, it was long in reaching mankind, but that, when it did, 
men would be desolate indeed. Our age is an age of private and 
public desolation, in which we live surrounded, as it were, by dead 
stars which we try in desperation to light up from afar. But, un- 
like our predecessors, we are not murderers of God; we were born 
after the fact. Whereas, for Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, the great 
historical note of the nineteenth century was the middle-class 
complacency, the note of the twentieth century is middle-class 
anxiety. And the distribution of political and technological benefits 
to the middle-class merely makes the "anxiety all the heavier. It 
comes at a time when the materialistic ideals of the nineteenth cen- 


tuiy arc as good as achieved. And this, of all times, is the time for 
the greatest anxiety, mass anxiety. 

What is the cause of the anxiety that no one in our time is un- 
touched by? It is the fact that most men, even religiously oriented 
men, sense that they are living in a world and in societies and in 
families that are existing on sufferance of luck and effort. Whatever 
value and meaning life has today comes largely from fortune, in- 
dividual striving, and not least sheer longing. In the past, religion 
may have been a matter of accepting a living presence; now it is 
largely a matter of longing for a presence that carries explanation 
and justification with it. This is why religions have been revived, 
through longing for something that man does not have, whose ab- 
sence makes him desperately lonely and anxious. 

Existentialism, like contemporary religion, is concerned with 
human longing rather than with angelic acceptance of existence. If 
this seems to belittle its importance, one should ask why longing 
has come to mean wishful thinking. May not longing be, on the 
contrary, the best indication of faith and the presence one longs for? 
The age that distinguishes between longing and acceptance is, let 
us remember, an age of unfaith. Where religion is active, men ex- 
perience what Schopenhauer called a "metaphysical need." The 
stronger the need, the more active the longing, and the more intense 
the longing, the more capable man becomes of realizing the presence 
he needs. No one ever longs for that which is inconceivable, although 
one often wants something that circumstances will not permit. To 
know what one wants implies acquaintance with it. One cannot want 
what is not known; one does not know what does not exist. 

At the bottom of existentialism is this principle of recognition, 
which we meet in Plato and Augustine as well as in the Bible. A view 
of life founded on a theory of recognition sees experience in terms 
of a wandering and a return, in terms of homelessness and home- 
seeking. One can belittle homelessness and homeseeking only if one 
is sure it is not the very character of existence. Man is a sojourner 
on earth, and whether he believes in God or not, it is clear that he 
experiences no earthly home that cannot be destroyed. He may be a 
pilgrim, a wanderer, or an exile. But even the pilgrim has not yet 
arrived and is indistinguishable from the wanderer except by his 
faith; he must pass through all the dangers from without and most of 


the anxieties relating to his own fortitude from within. Even the 
saints have dark nights. In fact, those who have no dark nights should 
suspect that their faith is self-delusion rather than experience. The 
consciousness and the highest reach of human existence is nostalgic. 
Existential knowing is recognizing; existential living is homeseeking. 
This suggests that the flavor of experience will be a mixture of 
longing and acceptance, of the poignancy of loss and the promise 
of presence, of death and of resurrection. 

What forms do men's most precious moments take? Is there any 
love that is true without its nostalgia, the consciousness that the 
truest love can and will be lost? Is there any poignancy without 
the consciousness and the mystery of loss and grief as well as gain 
and hope? Is there any beauty without its transitoriness, its fading? 
The beauty that is ever new, that Augustine wrote of, is something 
to return to, not something we can identify ourselves with. It is 
within us, perhaps, but still it is not we. Is any act of justice final, 
no matter how satisfying? No justice on earth immunizes man from 
tragedy and death. Every act of justice reminds one, hopefully and 
painfully, of the final justice that is not experienced. The very 
heroism that the nineteenth-century existentialists were, in their 
way, trying to restore to modern life is a matter of nostalgia, like all 
idealism. Nostalgia, in the broad sense, is man's natural index of ends 
and virtues. It is the recognition built into the human spirit of its 
own nature, its frailty and its ideals. 

To be human, to exist with full consciousness, is to know at one 
and the same time one's human and one's individual frailty and 
ideals. It is to recognize them mysteriously in their very absence, 
in longing for them; it is to want to turn to them again; to return 
to them. It is to feel that what one wants to return to, one has 
never even had, except similarly in longing. As soon as a man under- 
stands this truth about his nostalgia, that he is longing for something 
he has never had, he is ready to acknowledge that longing points to 
the future that is completely open. In this way, the life of choosing, 
that the nineteenth-century existentialists held up as the life of man, 
receives its subjective base and, in that base, its goals. It is the home- 
less man who knows what there is to choose, what there is to be 
heroic about, namely, home, family, justice, law. 

The base of existentialism is disquietude. Call it restlessness, 


anxiety, uneasiness, panic, loneliness, guilt, sin there are many forms 
of the underlying uncertainty of our being. This is more funda- 
mental than any kind of rational uncertainty or certainty, more 
fundamental than any temporary experience of love, friendship, or 
art. If man were not hemmed in by time, if he did not die, dis- 
quietude would be temporary, and certainty basic and lasting. But 
where the indestructible assurance is the assurance of death, dis- 
quietude makes up a corrosive base of the personality of man, 
whether man wishes to admit it or not. And in the stage of history 
in which we are living, this base has been for the first time ex- 
perienced by all and disclosed by philosophical analysis. Nietzsche 
had said that the age in which God died was the midpoint of time, 
from then on man could live. Nietzsche was wrong, not only be- 
cause man has not lived well since his time, but because he could not 
understand that man does not satisfy his metaphysical need, his 
need for home, without God. In our day, one might say that the 
age in which men are more aware of disquietude than in any other 
period of history is also the age in which man, for the first time, 
knows the character of his existence, without illusions. This is not 
a question of statistics, that is, whether there is more good than 
evil in human life. Probably there is much more good, statistically 
speaking. But as long as life is undercut by the certainty of death 
and the impossibility of eliminating tragedy, that strange amalgam 
of guilt and chance, every good is colored by the assurance that 
it moves in a sea of annihilation. 

The heart of nostalgia is the belief in the irreplaceability of the 
individual the real meaning of the hackneyed phrase, the dignity 
of man. But it remains true that every individual is replaced and is 
regarded by those closest to him as replaced, once he is out of the 
way. The heart of nostalgic recognition of the good one does not 
have is precisely an allegiance, a passionate devotion to recognition 
of a self, one's own self and some other self one loves. And yet 
these two words are so indicative of the base of existence nostalgia 
arises out of situations in which recognition is lacking and will lead 
to situations brought about by the requirements of human existence, 
in which recognition will be lost. How many billions of lives as 
conscious and careful as our own have already disappeared forever 
but not for good? We will be no different. And it is this recognition 


that one rebels from and yet has to take in. It is inhuman to accept 
the total nonrccognition of death and personal loss, just as it is in- 
human to believe and to act on the supposition that every man is 
replaceable. Man's dignity resides not only in his virtues, his free- 
dom, and his justice but also in his belief that no one is completely 
replaceable. The aim of each individual should be to make this 
belief function in the world. 

The existentialism of the nineteenth century was a call to indi- 
viduals to make something of themselves worth recognizing. The 
pathos of such a call was that it ended in asking, in vain, for recogni- 
tion from a century that understood recognition only as conven- 
tional approval. To be recognized meant to be accepted by a group, 
not for what one is in one's self, but as one of a kind. This is a 
no less appealing solution now than it was a century ago. But even 
in the crowd, the individual cannot now escape loneliness and dis- 
quietude. It is all too plain that no crowd, no group, has the over- 
all and permanent sanction that can allay all anxiety. And yet, such 
is the prevailing fear in the twentieth century of nonrecognition, 
that he who is not known under some category knows himself to 
be lost, as lost as the individual of whom Pascal speaks, who com- 
pares himself to the infinite spaces. But it is no longer the size, the 
heroism of the individual that will save him; it is the recognition 
he would like to experience in some lasting form. For the religious 
existentialist, desire looks no further than the immediate promise 
of nostalgia, a gain almost bound to be lost. In a sense, existentialism 
is an assertion of the seeming impossible, a resolution never to be- 
tray an individual, a resolution there is no reason to suppose will not 
itself be betrayed. All joys are nostalgic rather than eternal, includ- 
ing the nostalgia for the eternal. Nostalgia, homesickness, is an index, 
built into human nature, of goals that are always being undercut in 
this life but which it is nevertheless inhuman and cowardly not to 
strive to attain. Nostalgia is an index of eternal presence. 

This is the paradox that existentialism cannot do without. It de- 
mands an honesty, a charity, and a heroism that no other philosophy 
or utopianism dares to face. It rejects the pretense of self-sufficiency 
or of rationalism, the delusive comforts of categories and parties 
and tickets. It demands that each man remember who he is, a once- 
for-all being in this world, who has little time to make up his mind 


or to pass from the natural isolation of his finitude to relations of 
love, law, responsibility, and justice. It requires him to act as if men 
were irreplaceable, because they are really irreplaceable in eternity. 
It asks more than a man can perform and offers him only the satis- 
faction of comprehending human nature and of doing to his utmost 
the apparently impossible. Merely to vow never to forget another 
person is to vow the unlikely. For not only does the person who 
vows die, but remembering does not bring him back. Remembering 
is not a return and is not an adequate replacement. But it may be 
an indication of what is still present that we may return to. It is 
human but foolish to forget, even if remembering is not a return, 
foolish because one should remember the poignancy that is the stuff 
of one's appreciation of existence. 

Aims, Values, and Curriculum 

What influence can, or should, existentialism have on education? 
Is it too difficult, too esoteric a point of view to be widely received? 
Does it demand too much intellectuality or maturity? Does it have 
any practical implications in terms of things like curriculums or 
student-teacher relationships? Is it too special and, perhaps, up- 
setting a philosophy to advocate, as dangerous as its opposite num- 
ber, communism? These are real questions and must be answered. 
One way of seeing how real they are, however, is to ask whether 
the alternative would be to keep existentialism away from the young, 
or to reserve it for the intellectually elite. Would those of secondary- 
school age miss something that is humanly necessary as well as 
necessary for the times in which we are living? Is it emotionally 
more disturbing to introduce the themes of existentialism in college 
or in later life rather than early when youth's resilience can make 
easier adjustments? Is the problem one of goals and methods rather 
than of the capacity of the young for assimilation? Anything serious 
is upsetting if it is introduced carelesslysex, religion, politics, even 
"great books." Must education be reduced, in the precollege years, 
to mathematics and languages and matter-of-fact treatments of 
literature and history? No one believes this now. Then why promote 
some values or forms of experience more than others? If values 
and experience are not to be shied away from, why avoid the 
typical serious experiences of life in which even young people are 


already involved? These questions serve to make one more con- 
scious of the difficulty of excluding anything from a person, no 
matter how young, who is capable of taking it in. Perhaps the first 
question is not "when" but "what" the existentialist thinks he can 
contribute to the total education of a man. 

The existentialist does want to educate the total man, not just 
one or another side of him. And to this extent, much of what he 
wants is wanted and promoted by other philosophers as well. But 
what one philosopher wants, another may also prescribe, if not 
to the same extent. It is the emphasis on one part of education 
rather than on another that marks the particular philosophy. No 
one would expect an existentialist to emphasize the study of mathe- 
matics as a Platonist might. And yet, it would be wrong to think 
that existentialism is opposed to mathematics, or to natural science, 
or to economics. What is the educational ideal or principle that 
permits an existentialist to advocate these and other disciplines and 
yet motivates a special contribution? It is this: existentialism is con- 
cerned about the unfolding of the individual as a whole in the situa- 
tion in which he finds himself. This implies two things: first, that 
there is some sense in speaking of the individual as a whole, of 
man as a whole and, second, that individuals cannot be considered 
independently of their situations. The whole man or woman or 
child, within the environment of time and place that he is born into 
this is the object of education, or the subject. The unfolding, the 
development of this subject, is the end which the existentialist works 

If it is the existence of man that holds one's attention, then one 
cannot omit to teach man anything that bears on this. Existence is 
not metaphysical abstraction. It is my existence, and yours, some- 
thing individual and irreplaceable. It is, therefore, important that 
one treat it as best one can. It is also not a life in a vacuum, but a 
life conditioned to a large degree by the times and places in which 
it has arisen, by century and nation, by culture and family, by 
politics and science and religion. A man born in the twentieth cen- 
tury has problems which were not problems for a man living one 
hundred or seven hundred years ago. And existentialism directs one's 
attention to this fact. But situation means more than this. It con- 
cerns the smaller situations in which each man has alternatives, in 


which he is relatively free to choose this rather than that, to choose 
his values and his goals as well as his next few minutes. Situation 
includes some experiences and moments in which an individual comes 
up against things that snub him completely, that reject him, that 
ignore him, that indicate his powerlessness or even his failure to do 
what he could have done. There are such experiences that every man 
must not only know about beforehand but must deal with whether 
he knows how or not. Jaspers has called these, unforgettably, 
"boundary-situations," because tragedy, death, guilt, or suffering 
forces one to appraise one's total situation, resources, and values; to 
appraise and then make some choice or resolution. 

These are situations that man has always had to anticipate. No 
period in history has any monopoly over them. And yet they help 
define man's historical being, for they relate him to the universe. It 
is only in the world of other beings that these situations, including 
that of death, press on one. It is only because one lives among others 
even when one is as detached as possible from themthat one 
affects and is affected by others. Man is a being in the world, as 
Heidegger has pointed out, and this means more than Aristotle's 
dictum that man is a political animal. One does not live in a city 
only. One lives with other beings, human and nonhuman, whom one 
can, as Augustine said, use or enjoy. It matters very much, therefore, 
"where" one is. "When" one is living matters also, even to the 
relation man has to such universal situations as tragedy, death, suf- 
fering, and guilt. If man were not a creature of time, change, chance, 
and body, man would probably need no philosophy at all, least of all 
existentialism. There would be no problems and no questions, only 
opportunism. Sometimes it seems as if some philosophers had not 
realized that man is such a creature. Man may be capable of every- 
thing, as the Renaissance philosophers liked to think, but he does not 
have time for everything. He must choose. And even if man is 
capable of everything, no individual man is, at least not now. This 
is another way of saying that, to be a universal man, one must 
live in a time that does not demand too much and yet permits every- 

What is so noticeable about the present century is that it is over- 
full of demands, techniques, discoveries, fads, fashions, learning, and 
yet discourages individuality. There is too much to be assimilated, 


and yet more and more there is in the air the impossible demand 
that individuals try to assimilate everything. To live in such a time, 
with its ever shifting pressures and seductions, is to court madness 
if one is taken in by the whispering pressure to assimilate. On the 
other hand, can one afford to ignore the queries and ideas and 
achievements of one's time altogether and to burrow into some sys- 
tem or cult of the past? Man is not static, precisely because he is by 
nature a being in situations; he stultifies and becomes childish or 
inhuman when he tries to ignore the good as well as the evanescent 
in the present. He is bound to take his time into account and to 
make his own choices and selections. So we cannot say that the 
twentieth century does not pose its own variety of situations, not 
universal, but nonetheless real. From the existentialist point of view, 
the present century is a homeless century, in which men have lost 
the old points of recognition and seek, consciously or neurotically, 
new kinds of recognition. The several forms of totalitarianism of our 
time are intended to be ways out of this spiritual homelessness for 
many millions. The middle-class conventionality, which is just as 
strong now as one hundred years ago, is another way. 

Any suggestion that a man should be known through a category or 
a label rather than through his character and his capabilities, is a 
shortcut to a recognition of man in his homelessness. But the existen- 
tialist rejects both the totalitarian and the bourgeois group comfort, 
not because he disapproves of groups man lives and must live and 
even find himself with others but because the main tendency of 
group recognition is the complete forgetting and denial of individual 
being, personality, and rights. It is easy to understand the appeal 
of this kind of recognition. The homeless man feels lonely, isolated, 
and can, therefore, confuse the symptom (isolation) with its cause 
and character (homelessness). To break isolation, a man can join 
a group, without in any way solving the deeper problem of the 
homelessness that brought the isolation about. For there are two 
aspects to homelessness: the home and the individual's peace at 

There are homes ecclesiastical as well as political that can pro- 
vide authority and require obedience only. There are homes in 
which authority is love and, therefore, encourages love in return. 
The totalitarian form of home requires allegiance only; the citizen 


is not loved, least of all for himself. Nor is he irreplaceable, except as 
a hero of the state. The middle-class conventionality, which Ameri- 
cans know much better, does not depend on a systematized authori- 
ty, but rather on the individual adjusting himself constantly to cus- 
toms and even fads. There is no room for eccentricity in middle- 
class America, "unless one can afford it," any more than in a totali- 
tarianism. And eccentricity, which in itself is not the noblest of 
virtues, is forced into a position of empty prominence by the fact 
that conventionality requires everything and gives nothing. Of 
course it claims to give protection, but that is never in the least 
like the attention that a loving parent gives to each child, different 
for each but equally intended. The homeless man may be fooled into 
thinking that he needs security only, of a God or a party. But that 
would only be because he did not know what it means to be 
homeless or to live in a home. 

One of the disturbing things about our time is the tendency to 
think in terms of antithetical ideas only; in this respect, in terms of 
freedom or authority. The free man is not necessarily the isolated 
or homeless man; the security that the latter needs and wants may 
not be supplied just by authority. Home is not the father or the 
mother; home is not the place of a ruler, a place where one must 
fit in and be subservient. Home means values and even a hierarchy. 
But it means a mutuality of giving and taking, of, in short, caring. 
Home is where a man should be freest to think and to do. If 
modern man no longer understands this, it is because he has learned 
to equate freedom with either movement for the sake of movement 
or detachment for the sake of detachment. Freedom of these kinds 
is enslavement, paralysis, emptiness. There is an older and healthier 
conception of freedom that sees freedom as a means and not an end, 
as it must unfortunately seem in a time of isolation and enslavement. 
When freedom is seen as a means, it is not difficult to understand 
that the free man is the one who is free to find the ends of human 
existence, free to find the way, free to live in that way. 

Existentialism promotes the free development of the total man 
in the situation in which he finds himself. But by freedom existential- 
ism does not mean irresponsibility; rather, the freedom to commit 
one's self again and again to values and to persons. There is no con- 
flict between truth and freedom, between freedom and authority, or 


freedom and commitment. The existentialist is the man who, con- 
scious of the general homelessness of man and the special forms of 
modern homelessness, would also know the meaning of the opposite 
of homelessness, being-at-home. He knows and insists that to be at 
home is not to be subordinated to either security or authority but, 
rather, to find security in his free and mutual relationship of affec- 
tion for and understanding of the values and the persons he has 
chosen or returned to. 

Thus, the end of education for an existentialist is making individ- 
uals aware of the meaning of homelessness, of being-at-home, and 
of the ways of returning. In the strict sense, this means that existen- 
tialism is concerned principally with liberal education, freeing man 
from his isolation and his anonymity, freeing his mind from the 
confusions that prevent him from seeing his situation and his powers. 
So much, it has in common with psychiatric therapy. No philosopher 
today is more concerned with education in this sense than an 
existential philosopher. Every existential philosopher is a doctor 
and a missionary, not for some esoteric doctrine called existentialism, 
but for the purpose of encouraging individuals of all kinds and con- 
ditions to understand their situation and themselves. And it is the 
starting-point of every existentialist that no other modern philosophy 
has taken the self and its situation seriously enough to make that 
situation the subject matter of its inquiry. It is for this reason that 
one so often hears it said that if existentialism has any model in the 
past, it is in stoicism, in tragedy, or in the Christian religion. The 
existentialist has a view of man which varies less than is supposed, 
from one existentialist to another. All existentialists start with the 
individual who chooses his course and who dies in disquietude. And 
all of them protest against the forces within man and in his con- 
temporary situation that discourage him from being-at-home, or, 
worse, from seeing himself as both mortal and responsible. All are 
actively and specifically concerned with the limits of man's nature 
and the desolation of his contemporary frustrations or, more precise- 
ly, with homelessness. 

This is why it is not empty exhortation for existentialism to en- 
courage individuals to know themselves and their time. The existen- 
tialist believes that there are certain things, certain truths, which 
every man ought to know, and which he has all too little time to 


know. In another sense, this liberalizing education is vocational. Man 
is called to know himself; it is not optional and a matter of luxury. 
It is man's vocation to know himself so that he can live well. With 
the more special form of "vocational" education, existentialism has 
nothing directly to do. That is a matter of individual capability and 
choice, and must be exercised within the framework of the appraisal 
of human and individual conditions and ends. 

The ends are both fixed and relative. Every man should know 
what it is to be a man, the limits and the powers of man. But every 
man should also know his own time, both as an individual in a cer- 
tain confined environment and as a man of a certain century, with 
its particular problems. To know about and to solve the latter is 
not the same as to know about the limitations of existence in gen- 
eral. One might say that there are even two kinds of homelessness, 
that which all men, under Adam, suffer, with the consequences of 
exile from paradise, in death, guilt, tragedy, suffering, and that which 
men in the twentieth century experience, a century in which all men 
feel the effects of the death of God (or, if you please, the death of 
"European or Christian morality"). Existentialism is concerned with 
the universal and the historical, and in fact, came into being itself 
through a certain historical situation in the nineteenth century. It 
is conceivable that another time may come when, as in the distant 
past, no particular philosophy will be needed to remind men of 
their conditon and their powers or to teach them the meaning of 
home. It is conceivable, but not very likely, and not conceivable at 
all if one believes in some original, primal flaw in human nature that 
blinds men to what they need most. But there have been times 
when, relatively speaking, the family was a more stable social unit, 
when both city and gods offered a stable environment in which 
individuals could live freely and strenuously, as well as meaning- 

The present century is one that can be approached, as Tillich has 
done, through the fact of meaninglessness rather than homelessness, 
so abstract is modern man's sense of what he needs. But already one 
sees signs that men understand their trouble to be homelessness 
rather than meaninglessness, already see the possibility of a con- 
crete goal rather than an intellectual one. In such a time, and for 
such a flimsy, wanton being as man, it is imperative that education 


maintain the highest possible standards, requiring not only what the 
traffic will bear but even more. The danger, as existentialists who are 
teachers of nonphilosophical students know, is not that students 
cannot bear to understand themselves but that one will not give 
them the chance to understand themselves soon enough. Of course, 
every effort must be made to judge the receptivity of the individual 
student and not to ask more than he can deal with by himself. This 
is another way of saying that an existential education begins as early 
as any other education, even earlier than school education. No 
opportunity should be lost to suggest or show or explain the limita- 
tions as well as the challenges of life. One without the other makes 
for either frustrating pessimism or irresponsible optimism. 

The Educative Process 

The educational process has three elements: the teacher, the pupil, 
and that which they have in common, the curriculum. How does 
this process differ from any other relation between two people? 
Why is not any conversation or dialogue educational? Is there any 
which is not? Can a monologue or soliloquy be educational? Or does 
one have to suppose that someone is listening? Is it enough just to 
suppose that someone is listening? Is it enough just to speak at him? 
What distinguishes an educational conversation or monologue a 
lecture from one which is not educational? Is it the curriculum? 
But is there ever a dialogue or a monologue from which some kind 
of curriculum is totally absent? Is it the intention to educate, to 
affect someone else that makes the process educational? Or is it the 
result? Is the process to be defined then by its end? How then 
would one know whether education had been taking place, until 
afterward, until one had measured the result? But how can one 
know the result unless one knows what to look for? Is the end, 
therefore, implicit in the intention? 

These are the obvious questions, and they seem to lead each other 
around in a ring. The way to break the ring is to admit from the 
start that education is not a special process; only formal education is 
a special process. But wherever there are these three elements, the 
teacher, the pupil, the curriculum, there is the possibility of educa- 
tion. Wherever two are together with a third thing, which takes both 
out of themselves, there is education. And the only difference be- 


tween pupil and teacher is that the teacher leads, while the pupil is 
moved. But he who is moved now may in the next sentence, even in 
his moving, lead his teacher, who then becomes pupil. It is only when 
the relation is so set up, formally, as in a radio talk or a platform 
lecture without discussion, that no turn-about can take place. But 
this is artificial, and education should be natural. This is the most 
important thing about education; it is a natural process. And the 
more clearly one understands this, the more effective even its arti- 
ficial movements can be. 

When one speaks of education nowadays, one thinks first of all 
of schools, places where specialists deal with skills and disciplines. 
But who knows how long mankind had to do without schools? And 
yet this does not mean that man did without education. Even now 
there are human beings who go from birth to death without schools, 
without special teachers or special buildings, even without books. 
But no one goes without education. I am not thinking only of the 
training by examples which a mother bird gives a baby bird. We 
should, perhaps, question whether it is wholly proper to connect 
training by example with education. Is education animal or human? 
Should one keep this word only for that which human beings do? 
There are difficulties here. It is tempting to exclude training by 
example, but might that not mean excluding the training of char- 
acter? And do we want to separate character training from educa- 
tion? That would leave the function of education more single but 
also less concerned with the whole man. 

Perhaps the way out of this dilemma is to ask whether character 
training can be fairly associated with the kind of training by ex- 
ample that the mother bird gives the baby bird? Is character, to put 
it sharply, nonrational? Can a man or woman or child have a char- 
acter that will stand up under the ordinary tests of life, to say noth- 
ing of the extraordinary crises, without having understanding? And 
this, as far as one can tell, is what the nonhuman animals lack. One 
way of explaining all this is to say that nonhuman animals have no 
curriculum, in the sense of something between teacher and pupil 
which each recognizes as other than himself, as very clearly between 
or beyond. No bird or rabbit ever remarked as so many humans do, 
"That is beyond me." 

There may be a group dynamics for birds and rabbits, but there 


is no education because there is nothing in between. When one 
trains another, he evokes innate powers by displaying his own. But 
the human who allows another to do this to him is participating in 
a fraud. Such is the process of dictatorships of all kinds. And it is 
a matter of enslavement in humans, whereas it is natural in animals, 
just because a human being usually has to suppress his instinctive 
and natural disposition to examine what is happening to himself, to 
deliberate, to understand, to choose, or to reject. The animal may 
hesitate before flying off the perch for the first time: "Can I do this 
or not? 7 ' The human being will also want to know, however dimly, 
a reason for doing it. The smallest child, the tiniest talker, wants 
explanations. "Why?" "Give me an explanation." "What do you 
mean?" And the smallest questioner balks until the answer satisfies. 
For the smallest questioner feels his freedom, his ability to reject 
as well as to accept. Human freedom is completely tied to an aware- 
ness of a realm of being that is distinguishable from human action. 
Or to put it another way, a human being acts in terms of something 
other than himself, whereas any other animal acts only in terms of 
his potentialities. To be free is to be aware of an order of things 
above and beyond one's powers and needs, an order which may or 
may not be indifferent to one's self, and to which one may or may 
not be indifferent. This order appears in various disguises; one might 
even say, on different levels of experience, as, to put it oversimply, 
the world or truth. 

If man were not a reflective animal, if he did not have this strange 
power and necessity of separating himself from himself and from 
all that surrounds him, not just taking in what passes by and reacting 
by instinct to it, there would be no educational problem. Whatever 
could be done would be done, instinctively. But man does not have 
to react in fixed ways. He can judge the world he passes by, as he 
wishes. He can respond to the world and his own judgments more 
or less as he wishes. He has the burden and the challenge of reflec- 
tion and choice. However burdensome the deliberation and the 
willing, think how challenging the very conception of world and 
truth is. There is something pathetic from the human point of view, 
of course about the introverted life of animals. They are not only 
bound to certain patterns of behavior, they have no sense of anything 
other than themselves to be concerned about. The dog who "loves 


his master" identifies the master's interests with his own and cannot 
see beyond. 

The real meaning of human freedom is that it arises from and 
is directed toward an order of reality which is primarily beyond 
any human circle. If it were not, man would have to feed on him- 
self as animals feed on their own powers and needs. Whenever men 
have tried to use themselves as ends, or shrink their world-view to 
a view of self, their isolation becomes so cramped that their whole 
reflective apparatus slows down and revolts or becomes paralyzed. 
The world and truth are the bright goals of free man. This is the 
reason why the curriculum is so important. And it is the develop- 
ment of a curriculum which involves a view and an estimate of the 
state of the world and of truth, that marks genuine educational 
interest. Any other group endeavor or attempted conversation is 
only abortive education, at best, without substance and therefore 
without the means to affect character or intellect in any lasting way. 

Does this mean that both teacher and pupil have to subordinate 
themselves to the curriculum? Is this like saying, "The books are 
our teachers"? Does this demand a systematic notion of truth that 
has no room for person or interest? Does this mean, in short, that 
the only educational task is to find and impart the one and only 
truth? There are educational practices which reflect this sometimes 
religious, sometimes political, sometimes just an old-fashioned text- 
book variety of the A,B,Cs. Reading, writing, and arithmetic re- 
flect this view just as much as any catechetical or doctrinaire 
education does. Whether the guiding principle is the quasi-relativism 
of Marxist class struggle or the even more rigid scholasticism of 
some forms of religious education, the role of the teacher is reduced 
to that of a shovel. And this is proper if human nature had to accept 
an unfree relation between individual and the other order of reality 
called world and truth. But neither the world nor truth has a label 
on it, telling what it is and how it is related to the other. There is 
no way but the way of individual judgment. Even revelation must 
be judged, according to its appearance, according to its suitability 
for the powers and needs that a human being thinks he has discov- 
ered in himself. There is no way of being sure that one is not wrong. 
Every choice involves an act of faith in the tightness of one's 


For this reason, it is possible to say that there is a world and 
there is truth; but it is not possible to say that the world is only 
this or that and truth this or that. Man's relation to truth, whatever 
some men say, is a leaning toward, a stretching out at, a longing 
for that which is present but not fully, clearly named. But one of 
the signs of wisdom in man is his acceptance of this basic difficulty 
of living. One can experience both world and truth and yet not 
experience them fully or even suitably. One can even mistreat both; 
in fact, who does not? But this is better than being mistreated by 
someone else's view of world and truth as finite and completely 
transferable. There is such a thing as being enslaved to a curriculum. 

One of the dangers in the current American preoccupation with 
general education is that a general curriculum may be looked on as 
finite, as known, and as the only end. To say that a man should 
devote himself to the world and truth is not to say that he should 
lose self or freedom. In a sense, he should lose himself only to find 
himself; the curriculum is there for him. Sometimes this has come 
to mean that the effect of liberal education is the forging of a man 
who is all instrument. Put him in any situation, and he knows how 
to ask the right questions, even if he does not already have all the 
answers. These are, incidentally, two possible results of a curriculum- 
dominated education. But whether the effect of such an education 
is to enslave a man to a system or to inculcate complete detachment 
and mobility, the general result is the same, an inability to commit 
himself again. Complete detachment is a kind of enslavement, a 
kind of paralysis too. It is no better to be totally uncommitted than 
to be totally committed. It is just as inhuman to think of one's self 
as an analytical instrument as to think of one's self as an answer-box. 
No decent society can be founded on either type of man. The 
former is incapable of caring for individuals; he can only care for 
ideas. The latter is incapable of appreciating the freedom that he 
has taken advantage of. One does not lose one's freedom in com- 
mitting one's self. One loses it only in committing one's self to 
something finite. 

In this is a belief that neither the world nor truth is finite and that 
the educational process, when natural and free, is concerned with 
an infinite dimension. In practice, this means that the teacher and 
his pupils have a curriculum between them that can be marked off 


in finite terms, as arithmetic is marked off from history, but also 
a curriculum which cannot be worked out once for all, even arith- 
metic, to say nothing of history. One can learn arithmetic, but one 
can also understand it, and there is probably much still to be under- 
stood. One can learn history, but even in the learning, one realizes 
as the arithmetic scholar usually does not that a historical fact is 
itself a product of the historian's judgment and selection. The sub- 
ject, the area, may be finite enough to prescribe; but the relation of 
an individual to this area is more tenuous. In contemporary educa- 
tion, the question again being raised is, "What areas are finite and 
basic?" And this has become a more debated question than the re- 
lation of the individual to the area. The great strength of the pro- 
gressive movement in education was to stress the latter, but at the 
expense of the former. Those who are now advocating, with as 
much justice, a renewed attention to basic disciplines and truths 
also run a risk, that of ignoring the individual's free relation to the 
infinite dimension within any discipline or body of truths. 

It is important to teach everyone to read and write and count. 
It is important to teach everyone some history and to acquaint 
everyone with examples and ideals and ideas of other men who 
have lived well and gladly. It is probably foolish to try to say 
which is more important; they are equally necessary and, therefore, 
equally important. The more profoundly men think about human 
nature and the present course of history, the more definitely their 
curriculums will reflect their concern. But it would be dangerous 
for anyone to prescribe books any more than ideas or heroes, as the 
sine qua non of an educated man. This is a danger, not because 
man's situation is always changing or because no man at any time 
knows exactly what his situation is anyway, but rather because it 
is an encouragement to forget the dynamism of the relation between 
man and the curriculum. The latter is there for man, although it 
requires a certain period of self-abnegation of the pupil. But even 
in subjugating himself, the pupil retains his freedom of observation, 
inquiry, and release. The world and truth are for him to explore, 
but they are also for him to commit himself to as one commits 
one's self to a community which not only permits freedom but 
enlarges the self. 

There is a view that the pupil is more important than either the 


teacher or the curriculum because it is he who is being educated. 
It cannot be denied that he is the one who is being educated. But 
the corollary that sometimes follows is more questionable. Is it true 
that the pupil is the one to decide what he should learn? Is this not 
removing at least one part of the teacher's function, if not preroga- 
tive? Worse, is this not the equivalent of letting the pupil teach 
himself, which might suggest that he does not even need to be ed- 
ucated? The pupil pays; therefore, let him say. Or, he is the one 
who is going to be educated; he better find out what he needs. 

Such a view implies either that there are no common needs or 
that individual needs are more important. If he needs to know 
arithmetic, let the child find out. But this is just what mankind 
found out it must know, after milleniums of fumbling. If one is 
afraid of crushing the little ego, how fearful must one be of human 
freedom and resilience? No doubt, in our time there are sick or 
pampered children and adults whose warped view of their freedom 
will not allow anyone to tell them what they should learn. But this 
is not only to misunderstand the strength and use of freedom; it 
is to be unaware of the difference between the finite areas of learn- 
ing and the infinite dimension within each area. No one is hurt by 
being forced to learn arithmetic or to read the Odyssey or the Bible. 
One is only hurt when one is discouraged from exploring these 
areas, or from maintaining a critical distance from that which one 
cannot yet understand. Nothing human is alien to a human being, 
except the human being who is unwilling to give the humanities, 
including the religious humanities, a chance. How can one know 
unless one submits? 

Freedom has such rules and ways. And the mind has its ways, too. 
There is a logic that governs human converse, and it must be learned. 
Every human being must learn what follows from what is given 
and what does not follow. He must learn something of cause and 
effect, of the real intentions and dispositions of the mind, not just 
his own mind, but the human mind. With different premises, men 
arrive at different conclusions, often without paying much attention 
to the method of departure and arrival. But logic, whether broadly 
or narrowly conceived, is a common factor in thought and inter- 
course; it is involved in the two symbolic languages man has, word 
syntax and mathematical syntax. No educator can treat logic and 


language lightly and still be concerned with truth. Logic is the 
mode of man's disposition toward truth and, therefore, toward 
reality and is as stable a disposition as man's needs for food, for 
friendship, for morality are stable. Logic, like anatomy, will always 
exercise an attraction on many minds simply because, in a universe 
where so much is uncertain, it is at least certain that some ways of 
reasoning are as inadmissible as some uses of the body. 

But to admit that there are common needs, dispositions, and in- 
terests is not to deny that every man has his own, or may have 
his own. And the good teacher deals with these directly and in- 
directly not only because they must be attended to but often be- 
cause, through them, he can awaken an understanding of the dormant 
common needs, aptitudes, and dispositions. The good educator knows 
that he is educating individuals, not just man, and will use any meth- 
od that will educate the whole man. The whole man is also not just 
the individual but is his humanity as well. The teacher may forget 
more than this. He may forget the pupil altogether, if he is enamored 
by either his own ego and prospects of fame and promotion, or by 
the attraction of the subject he is teaching. Is he teaching or speak- 
ing to an audience which gives him an excuse to show off? To what 
end is his performance? Obviously, not every teacher can or should 
know the day-by-day needs and capacities of his students. And yet, 
if he disregards the fact that the receptacles of his shovelling per- 
formance are all different and always changing, he has only the 
subject matter or himself to fall back on. 

It is all too easy to forget the main reason why one is teaching, 
that is, to educate someone else. But even if the teacher does not 
know at a given moment the needs and capacities of the individuals 
before him, he should know that they and he are involved in a 
precarious experience between birth and death, fraught with risks, 
choices, changes, and challenges. To the extent that he can keep 
this in mind, to the same extent will his teaching be impregnated 
with a humility and earnestness that will both help him honor the 
truth and stimulate him to respond to the capacities of his pupils. 
It is as rare as it is wonderful for a teacher to have vision of time 
and eternity, of human character and intelligence, but it is absolutely 
necessary for a teacher to be both honorable and responsive. Many 
a limited mind has been joined to an honorable and responsive 


character in such a way that effective teaching has resulted. What 
mind is not limited in some way? One cannot expect infinity of 
wisdom any more than one can expect the curriculum to be pat 
from beginning to end. But one has every right to expect, because 
it is humanly possible, that a teacher's character be both honorable 
and responsive, devoted to the truth of the subject he teaches, and 
responsive to the minds and characters, the human if not the in- 
dividual needs of his pupils. 

A passionless teacher is a bad teacher. But there are passions that 
are better left out of the classroom, especially the passion to display 
one's self. Another is a passion for a system or idea or point of view 
that discourages reflection. Two normal passions remain: (a) a 
passion for the truth of any question that arises or ought to arise 
in the development of a subject matter, the truth no matter how 
strictly one is forced to review one's previous judgments; and (b) 
a passion for the end of teaching, the autonomous functioning of 
the pupil's mind and the habitual exercise by him of a character 
that is free, charitable, and self-moving. 

The good teacher aims to produce, not replicas, but men and 
women who stand apart from him even more distinctly than when 
he first met them. The good teacher does not want imitators but, 
rather, men and women who through their education have experi- 
enced the shock of discovering the infinite depths of the world and 
truth without giving up any of the partial truths they have en- 
countered along the way. The man whose mind is liberated is not 
detached from truth. Rather, the more he has submerged himself 
wholeheartedly in the subject matter of his reflection, observation, 
and insight, the freer he is. A teacher knows that he has succeeded 
only when he has evidence that his pupils can hold something to 
be true that he himself is convinced is true, without having come 
to this truth by imitating the teacher, by reasoning, or by other 
powers of persuasion, including the persuasion of example. When 
one sees one's own ideas quoted verbatim, one's heart should sink. 
But when one sees one's own ideas thought out anew as for the 
first time, then he is seeing the beginning of a free mind. The time 
will come soon enough when the liberated mind may go so far 
beyond the teacher's expressed thoughts that neither of them will 
see any overt connection between their ideas. It is sad if, at thip 


point, neither teacher nor pupil remembers that there is nothing 
lasting that need be imparted except the conviction that honoring 
the truth and responding to the individual are the foundations of 
good character. 

So in the end, education is education for character, for the habits 
that enable a man both to remain free and to remain with the truth 
when he finds it. The more he honors truth and the more responsive 
he is to individuals and situations, the more a man realizes that every 
truth is externally a chameleon but internally always the same. All 
ideas have a closet of costumes. Truth has its disguises, which only 
the patient and learned mind can detect. Far too much emotion is 
wasted in public and private life on differences that are only verbally 
irreconcilable. It is easier to surround one's mind with hedges that 
others cannot pierce; the good neighbor shares his fields as well as 
fences with the man next door. It is good to have one's own ideas, 
one's own approach to common problems; good, because you never 
know whether you have an idea until you have given it a new 
costume. But it is folly to forget that others dare do the same thing. 
Likewise, it is good for the teacher to have vision; it is at least 
necessary that he know something. But it is even more necessary 
that the good teacher care more for his students and for the truth 
he has not enough vision to see perfectly, than for any particular 
costume of truth. 

The prima donna may be suited to opera, but never to education. 
Education is not theater, although much of what is regarded pop- 
ularly as successful education is fairly good theater. The perform- 
ance fades, the vision fades, and only the teacher's attitude toward 
truth and toward his students remains assimilated or unassimilated 
by his hearers. There is sometimes point in perpetrating a theatrical 
hoax in a classroom, but it is justified only when the teacher keeps 
an ironic distance from his own eclat and, sooner or later, lets the 
students know this. The best teacher is the one who maintains that 
precarious balance between his devotion to that which is in between 
him and his students, the subject matter, and at the same time is so 
responsive to his students that he can switch his method and ap- 
proach without warning even to himself. Most teachers are too 
stiffly oriented to their own subject matter and to their students to 
be able to walk this tightrope. It is, however, an ideal which more 


would try to follow if they were aware of it. And there is nothing 
more exciting for a human being to do or for students to partici- 
pate in. 

Education has delights for the sensitive individual that are seldom 
fully realized. The student is an instrument to be played on; the 
teacher, an improviser. The good improviser knows many themes 
and loves some far more than others. He knows the ancient themes 
and the modern ones; he may even have thought up some of his 
own. But his devotion must be, not to his performance, but to his 
themes and his instrument. The student is worthy of the impro- 
viser's hand, not only for himself but also because he is a member 
of society, because he too can be an improviser. Every teacher is 
teaching teachers. He has his hand in and, therefore, his responsi- 
bility for the welfare of the community outside the classroom. 

School and Society 

What is the nature of the teacher's responsibility for the welfare 
of the community? To retail the supposed goods of the community? 
When the community pays, must the teacher deliver? This is the 
practice, if not the ideal, in many communities. Few communities 
would put up with either Socrates or John Stuart Mill. But we are 
concerned, not with custom, but with the ideal. Does the community 
have the right to prescribe what shall and shall not be taught? It 
certainly has the right of the purse string and of ostracism. But 
this is not a right so much as a temptation. And yet it is also a 
right, for there are teachers who should be discouraged from teach- 
ing, not because they have the wrong ideas, but because they do 
not know the difference between making slaves of their students 
and making men free. It is not by ideas or doctrines that one can 
judge the teacher or the student fairly, but by the habits of mind 
that students and teachers both exhibit. 

In our time the relation between school and community is most 
often spoken of under the heading of academic freedom, by which 
is usually meant the freedom of the teacher. It is unfortunate that 
teachers have not had the wisdom to refuse to let themselves be 
isolated in this way. The community has not investigated either 
students or the community itself but has concentrated on the teacher 
alone. In his defense, the teacher often forgets his strongest argu- 


ment, that education involves others than himself. The teacher, like 
any artist, is a lonely person whose work is too often unappreciated. 
He must live on the self-approval of his ideals and the self- judgment 
of his own abilities. When singled out, he is inclined to forget that 
he is only the easiest target, not the only target, for those who 
misunderstand what education is about. And therefore, in crying, 
"academic freedom!" he seems to himself to be crying, "teacher's 
freedom!" Academic freedom, however, is not solely or mainly the 
freedom of the teacher but the freedom of community, students, 
and teachers. As soon as one separates these three, one makes it easy 
to isolate the teacher's lot. The teacher should not resign himself 
to self-pity but should insist on the implication of students and com- 
munity in a common social situation. If a community is not free or 
is losing its freedom, it will not understand the importance of free- 
dom for either students or teachers. If students are not free, the 
community will soon not be free either. If the teacher is not free, 
neither will his students be free. 

It might be desirable, although probably rather dull, if men could 
be right instead of free. History gives little encouragement to such 
a desire. What history does show is that the insistence on right 
rather than freedom leads either to a slowing-down of civilized en- 
ergies or to some kind of enslavement. There is nothing worse than 
a good idea that is insisted on too much. The community which 
values truth and progress they are not incompatible must encour- 
age freedom of conscience and speech if it is to survive. Truth is 
not arrived at by majority vote. One man alone may discover it, for 
the benefit of all. It is only in the realm of action that the experi- 
ments of majority opinion are applicable. 

So much of what men do, they do with or near others, and laws 
are needed for the security and prosperity of each one. But laws 
are guesses, and the actions that follow are tests of their applicability. 
Since they affect all, they must be made by all. But truth is not 
made; it is found in the crevices of the mind and heart as well as 
in the results of action. It may be found by the minority. It is always 
found, at first, by a minority. For this reason, the quest for truth 
must be dissociated from majority opinion. I do not say community 
opinion, for this means two things. The community has no right 
to suppress the quest for or the expression of truth, but, at times, 
it does. The community's opinion is associated with the quest for 


truth only when it realizes its responsibility for and its need for 
truth. The so-called problem of academic freedom is thorny today, 
mainly because the community has forgotten its own responsibility 
to be free and to seek the truth that it needs so much. Losing its 
own freedom, it neurotically seeks to make a fellow sufferer of its 
reaching staff. The students, in between, have been forgotten by 
both sides. 

The community whistles to the teacher; the teacher either comes 
at a jump or snarl? and whines. What are the students doing? They 
are taking sides, if they are not sitting by in boredom. What they 
should be doing is reminding both teachers and community that, 
just as the curriculum lies in between and sometimes beyond 
teacher and student, so the students lie in between and sometimes 
beyond teacher and community. The students will become teachers; 
they will also become the new community. If the community, which 
fears it is losing freedom, could encourage the students to elevate 
freedom instead of curtailing the efforts of the teachers, the students 
could return to the community a new courage and a new concept 
of a free society. 

The community feels uneasy, dislocated, at bay, betrayed. It is 
participating in the death of God, spiritual emptiness, in the menace 
of an expanding political religion that it does not fully understand, 
and in the unassimilable complexities of technological changes. Faced 
with the seeming impossibility of assimilating the innumerable ideas, 
opportunities, risks, and faces, contemporary men look for a scape- 
goat. Because man tends now to confuse freedom with innumerable 
alternatives rather than with some choice of these alternatives, and 
because the shape of his neuroses is an experience of freedom which 
he cannot cope with, he reacts by striking at freedom, in the name 
of freedom. If there is anything amusing in the current controversy 
over academic freedom, it is that both sides, the accusers and the 
accused, defend themselves in the name of freedom. The accusers 
say they want a free society; the accused say the teacher should be 
free. Both are in the right. And yet, the teacher is just as apt to 
forget that his task involves the making of free men, not merely in- 
formed men, as the community is apt to ignore its guilty fear of 
other men being free at a time when it is no longer able to bear its 
own freedom. 

The community says, "You teachers are responsible to us; you 


must be loyal." The teachers cannot deny they are responsible. But 
do they mean the same thing? To what must the teacher be loyal? 
To the whims or even the considered opinion of the community? 
Who is to judge? Again I would urge that one try to distinguish 
between education and action. For the sake of the common good, 
of action, and of law, the community must set up judges. If it does 
not, anarchy follows. But experience and the seeking of truth are 
not similar. Anarchy is destructive in experience; it is part and 
parcel of the quest for truth. There is no prescribed beginning and 
end, no prescribed order, that a teacher can be sure of. Everything 
he touches on is tinged with hypothesis, with guessing. If he pre- 
tends this is not so, he immediately ceases to approach truth. Each 
truth has thousands of veils; it is tempting to pretend that each un- 
veiling is the last. 

It may be shocking to use the words "improvisation" and "an- 
archy" in connection with education; it is more shocking to pre- 
tend that the realities they denote can be avoided. Anarchy is not 
to be confused with chaos. Improvisation is not to be confused with 
absence of discipline or conviction. The greatest organist is he who 
can improvise on a theme which is handed to him. The greatest 
statesman is the one that can accept political situations in medias res 
and seek to lead society to a higher destiny than it had known. 
Likewise, the skilful teacher accepts anarchy and improvisation as 
facts inseparable from teaching and rejoices that they provide him 
opportunities for achieving that which has not yet been known. 
Neither anarchy nor improvisation is, however, ideal. The skilful 
teacher tries to move toward an order suggested by his experience 
and his insight. His very improvisation should give him the chance 
to exhibit a disciplined mind. But neither order nor discipline is the 
end either. The end is the habit of mind of the student. 

Such an end is the only standard by which one can judge the 
success of education. There are three habits of mind which the 
teacher should keep his eye on: discipline, criticism, and fertility. 
This means that a student's progress is to be judged by his sense of 
order, his openness to controversy, his ability to originate ideas. 
Can he think straight? Can he entertain various and opposing con- 
cepts? Can he think on his own, without parrotting? He may also 
understand Thucydides or quantum mechanics or the articles of 


faith. There is much that he may and probably should know that 
the community may prefer him to know rather than see him develop 
these three habits. But all the rest fades, and such habits alone stay 
on, mold the man's character, and, in the end, mold society's char- 
acter. Conceptual and imaginative fertility falls apart without the 
cement of an orderly mind. Order, unrelated to the shifting appear- 
ance of the world to the mind that is essentially unstable is trans- 
formed into tyranny, without the criticism that never ceases to 
observe and judge. A critical mind that has no ideas of its own is 
like an instrument trying to wield itself; a critical mind which does 
not depend on the order of reason is flighty and irresponsible. These 
are simple desirables, but no less important for all that. They are 
indispensable for the community as well as for the students and the 
teachers. A society is not free unless it is rational, critical, and fertile. 
These are the criteria of freedom; freedom itself is the criterion of 
the quest for truth and the experience of living in the truth. 

Teacher and community are mutually responsible. If the latter is 
not expected to say, "My teachers, right or wrong," why should it 
expect the teacher to say, "My country, right or wrong"? To speak 
in these terms is to fog the issue. Both have an educational obliga- 
tion to seek and to say the truth, no matter how untimely that truth 
may seem. Both should keep in mind an even greater and harder 
obligation, never to let the reiteration of a supposed truth impede 
the growth of the three habits of mind mentioned above. This means, 
in practical language, that the community should expect the school 
to engage in controversy, to think and say what is unpopular or even 
what may seem wrong-headed. Education is concerned with thought 
and speech, not action, and it is impossible to curb thought and 
speech without losing their advantages. No one need be afraid of 
the truth. And free men need not fear fallacies and untruths. 

The principle to keep in mind is the distinction between education 
and action. Thoughts can harm no one; they can only scare. Society 
needs to be scared when it begins to fear free speech. But when 
educators begin to prefer the propagating of truths rather than the 
development of habits, the community should look for new teachers. 
The test of a teacher can never be political or a priori; he must be 
judged by the effects he has already had. The courts also do not 
condemn a man for his words but for the effects of the words. One 


cannot judge intentions; one can only be wary of them, if one knows 
them. No teacher should be dismissed who has a proven reputation 
for developing the three habits of reasoning, criticism, and innova- 
tion. No community should assume that it can determine his repu- 
tation and his effects on the basis of his believing one doctrine 
rather than another. In the end, it is the way a teacher approaches 
and handles truth or doctrine that determines his effectiveness as an 
example, not his preferring one doctrine to another. 

Any other attitude toward the teacher's freedom is apt to depend 
on a highly relativistic view of truth and society. What seems wrong 
or vicious to one nation is not even vicious to the same nation at 
another time, or even to whole segments of its population at the 
same time. People are inclined now to give such remarks a political 
context only. If there are those who do not want certain political 
or economic texts to be approved of, there are those who do not 
want religion to be examined at all except by and for those who are 
already its partisans. Truth, however, is common property, no matter 
what the area; and no greater harm can be done to individuals and 
to society than to prejudge certain areas or certain expressions of 
truth. Moreover, when certain expressions of truth have been judged 
false, no one has the right to exclude these expressions from human 
converse, lest he take on himself the claim of infallibility. 

Mankind needs more truth desperately and should push aside 
parochial inclinations in order to find it wherever it is. If this means 
giving respect where respect is due, then it would be better to stop 
thinking in terms of such alternatives as "patriotism" or "interna- 
tional co-operation." Truth is universal not national. The school 
serves the community by discovering the truth which the com- 
munity and the world need, by developing free men who will con- 
tinue the search for truth when they begin to act. Therefore, the 
school is not merely the training ground for leaders; it provides the 
leadership in terms of new ideas, which it tests in its own arenas, 
and provides the skills of argument, inquiry, and innovation which 
no balanced, just, or expanding society can do without. 

Religious and Moral Education 

Existentialism and religion are closely associated by definition and 
in history. Both are concerned with the finiteness of man and with 
man's anxieties in face of the consequences of his finiteness. Most 


existentialists are also religious in the sense that they do not believe 
man has it in his power to solve his deepest anxieties. These religious 
existentialists, Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, believe that the function 
of existentialism is descriptive, not prescriptive, and that the prescrip- 
tion for the worst ills is God's, not man's. But there are existentialists 
who prefer or who can only believe in a neostoicism, which, while 
not believing man is able to overcome the world, does believe that 
man alone must try to do so. Both kinds of existentialism know they 
are primarily concerned with the same experiences of life that all 
religions, Eastern as well as Western, have always been concerned 
with. They know that without death, sickness, failure, and home- 
lessness, man would not need religion or existentialism. 

They know that existentialism, as a self-conscious way of looking 
at experience, arose one hundred years ago in a deeply religious man, 
Soren Kierkegaard. They know that wherever one finds traces and 
anticipations of existentialism before Kierkegaard, as in Augustine or 
Pascal or Sophocles or the Bible, one is looking at a religious source. 
It was only when religion and experience had both lost their bite, at 
the beginning of the nineteenth century, that it was necessary to 
separate the religious need from the religious answer. The religious 
need is not necessarily a need to which there is a religious answer. It 
is simply the human need of ultimate recognition. The individual 
who knows he must die, who suffers, who does not measure up to 
his own ideal, who cannot find the home and the over-all meaning 
that his being requires, wants above everything, some evidence that 
at least his need is recognized by others as the most important thing 
about him. He wants the universe itself to give some evidence, if 
possible, that it, too, recognizes this need as legitimate and appeasable. 
But there is no logical necessity which says that if there is a need 
for the universe to recognize and appease, the universe will oblige. 
It is just as logical to say that man is born with limitations that 
apparently are not overcome, unless secretly. On the other hand, 
there are those who still believe that man can compensate for, if not 
overcome, his limitations. Man may not live forever, but he can 
compensate for death in some way by his life. This is, of course, 
harder to say of someone else's life which you miss and which you 
may say cannot be replaced. As long as a man holds that another 
man is irreplaceable, no bright-faced agnosticism is acceptable. 

Whatever the answer of the religious man or the agnostic or 


atheist, an existentialist view of man calls attention to a nature that 
is in many ways limited and that cannot make itself unlimited. At 
bottom, the existentialist point of view starts side by side with the 
religious point of view. To this extent they speak the same language, 
use the same categories, because they are moved by the same basic 
experiences. They part company only when the religious answer 
seems to be unacceptable to the individual philosopher. It is in this 
sense, by the way, that religion has a philosophical basis, rests on 
experiences everyone goes through. If this were clearly understood, 
the props would be suddenly removed from much of the bad-tem- 
pered objection to religion and to the place of religion in education. 
The religious answer may seem to be a deceit and delusion, but its 
intention to answer something that must be dealt with because it 
is experienced is so much more honest and clearheaded than the 
attitude toward life of most of those who waste time gibing against 
those who try to deal with something unquestionably serious. 

Every man now living is going to die. What does this mean to 
him? Can a man suppose he is educated if he has not had to face 
this most depressing of questions? This is not merely a "religious" 
question. It is human and unavoidable. Every man becomes sick 
sooner or later, in mind as well as body. Every man fails himself and 
others many times. What do sickness and guilt mean to him? What 
kind of being gets sick and dies? How would it differ from the 
kind of being that did not? Such a question cannot be asked too 
often to prod those who seem to be living on the tacit assumption 
that they are not finite. Every man is encouraged to set his sights 
on certain ideals, some men on more ideals, and some on higher ones. 
Unless a man is almost subhuman, he realizes often that he is not 
adequate to his own ideals or to the ideals others expect him to 
uphold and live by. He then experiences failure and guilt. It is not 
just a question of trying to do the impossible. No one ever knows 
just what is possible until he tries, and sometimes not even after- 

Every man needs a home, a place where he is known and accepted, 
and, if possible, liked for what he is. He needs also a spiritual home- 
some try to substitute a cause, a party, a nation, a club, a business 
where everything he does has meaning. It is not natural to be iso- 
lated in life, although it is natural to be born and to die by one's 


self. In between birth and death a man needs both world and truth, 
in the shape of a home and a faith. Without these, or facsimiles of 
them, he becomes desperately ingrown and, on any account, less 
human. No man can afford not to know these facts about himself, 
their symptoms, their causes and consequences, and some of the 
attempts that have been made to solve man's troubles. No school 
has a right to be proud of its educational aims if it does not take 
into account this most important area of human experience and 

The reason this area cannot be left to the churches is not because 
the churches do not deal with it adequately which is true or be- 
cause most men are not touched by the churches; the reason is that 
this area does not belong to the churches; it belongs to all men. 
Existentialism serves both mankind and organized religion by ex- 
tracting the very experiential base on which religion is founded and 
by calling it existential rather than religious. The core of religion 
and the core of education are thus the same, those experiences which 
exhibit human finiteness and the need for redemption and resur- 

Too often the proponents of religion try to placate their enemies 
by employing an indirect and soft answer. They say, "You can- 
not understand history or literature unless you know something 
about religion." This is true, but it is arguing backwards. The 
truth is that you cannot understand man unless you understand or at 
least try to understand the basic experiences of a man's life, the ex- 
periences that limit him and keep him from becoming an angel or a 
god. Alan's powers and opportunities for affirmation, creation, and 
self-development, as well as for communal living, cannot be under- 
stood properly apart from the limitations of man's nature. Existen- 
tialism is a corrective to "angelism." And yet existentialism is also 
a supporter of heroism. For the hero is the one who recognizes the 
ideal and strives to embody it most successfully. He will be judged 
a failure or a mock-hero, an anti-hero or a genuine hero, according 
to his ability to estimate the distance between him and his age and 
the ideal. Every man who wants to be a hero does not become one, 
not because he does not have the will, but too often because he does 
not have the intelligence. Education is concerned basically with 
the intelligence of man, with its awakening and informing. No man 


is fully awake until he knows his human limitations, his potentialities 
for heroism, and, finally, his need to live with others as in a family. 
One of the things that the hero must try to avoid is to become cut 
off in his very heroism from the rest of mankind. He needs family 
more, not less, than anyone else. 

To place a study of the existential or religious need in the cur- 
riculum of every school, public and private, is one thing; to intro- 
duce a study of the religious, the Christian answers, is another. But 
both are necessary. The school cannot and should not try to decide 
whether the religious need has an answer and, if it does, which one 
it must be. The school is only obliged, if it would inform its students, 
to remind them that men have made and lived out a variety of 
answers. All of these answers have had consequences for individuals 
and for their societies. Cultures cannot be understood apart from 
these answers as they were put into practice. Their effects have 
been observedly good or observedly bad, according to this or that 
criterion. They have seemed plausible for such and such reasons, 
relating to one's understanding of the existential need, man's nature. 

No man can be regarded as informed, awakened, and free unless 
he has learned as much as he can about himself and about the ex- 
amples of others like him in history. No man can call himself edu- 
cated unless he knows what his religious potentialities are, no mat- 
ter how unreal, foolish, or otherwise objectionable he judges them. 
Nothing human is alien to education, and that which is most human 
is that which concerns man's most serious experiences and estimate 
of his destiny. And so it is right and necessary that religious answers 
as well as religious needs be examined as critically as any other 
subject matters in education, at every level. Man's existential need 
is too pressing for him to be able to afford to remain ignorant of 
the principal attempts mankind has made to find an answer that 

Religion differs from other subject matters, not as doctrine differs 
from ethics, for other subjects lead to practice, too, but because it 
involves a practical exercise and relation to another order of reality, 
called worship. From this, most of the controversy arises. Does 
worship have any place at all in education, especially in a nonreli- 
gious school? In a school that thinks of itself as religious, whether 
Christian or not, the problem may not arise acutely. In a religious 


school the only question is whether to require students without reli- 
gious affiliations to attend a common worship. It seems to me that 
even this question can be answered in terms of a principle which 
affects the place of worship in the nonreligious school. Since worship 
is an integral part of religion, what I have been calling the religious 
answer includes worship. The faith of the religious man is expressed 
in his devotions as well as in his behavior with others or in his 
intellectual acceptance of doctrine. The three are, in fact, insepara- 
ble. For the human being in need of information as to the practice 
and meaning of the religious answer, it is just as important to under- 
stand the ways and significance of worship, as to understand the 
grounds and plausibility of doctrine. The school, public as well as 
private, should make it possible for all students to be acquainted with 
and to understand, so far as this is possible, the varieties of religious 
practice. It is just as important more, I should say as for it to 
require students to know the forms of government. 

This does not, however, mean that the school should require its 
students to worship, using, wherever possible, the resources of the 
community but always holding in its power its usual prerogative of 
insisting that the line be strictly observed between teaching and 
propagandizing. There is a line, however, which does not prevent a 
teacher from passionately believing what he teaches and even letting 
his students know his passion. But this line encourages him to re- 
member in time that a free mind is the basis of a committed mind. 
This is too paradoxical for some who believe that freedom means 
detachment or who believe that commitment is more important 
than freedom a false antithesis. The existential position maintains, 
however, that freedom and passionate commitment are not incom- 
patible, that one without the other is actually enslavement. In this 
way, I would not see any essential difference in the approach of the 
religious missionary from that of the nonreligious educator. If a 
man ceases to be free when he believes something, his belief is 
worthless and potentially more unstable than if he believed in fear 
and trembling. 

The School and the Individual 

The relationship between teacher and students is governed by a 
complex group of recognitions. When no recognition is present, 


there is nothing to fall back on but chaos or arbitrary authority. 
Much of the questioning about discipline, control, or authority, arises 
from situations where neither teacher nor students experience the 
basic recognitions that are possible in the educational experience. 

Likewise, the question as to whether the students should be en- 
couraged to use their initiative or whether the school should pre- 
scribe their ways comes from a lack of experience of the recognitions 
that students as well as teachers need in order to learn. 

Both teacher and students are individuals, but it is not enough 
to say that each must recognize the other. It is more complicated 
than that. The teacher should recognize the student not only as an 
individual but also as a human being and as a future member of 
society. It is similarly appropriate that the students see the teacher, 
not just as an individual, but as a human being and a representative 
of the society they are entering. All teachers know the humor of 
hearing that they are, at last, regarded as human beings by their 
students. Both teachers and students have this triple aspect, with 
these consequences: To see another man as an individual is to 
treat him as if he personally mattered, as if he was irreplaceable, as 
if he was different from all others. This requires a sensitivity to dif- 
ferences, a humor, and even a certain tenderness that one does not 
extend to a person in so far as one is thinking of him as one of a 
type. To look on the same person as a human being is to realize 
that what he is, I am, too, as are also the other members of the 
class and the world. It is to touch on and have him touch on the 
universal characteristics which history, literature, philosophy, and 
religion are primarily concerned with, his capacity for creative 
work, persistence, heroism, also his existential need for redemption 
and justification. To look on the individual as a member of society 
is to remember that no one lives at all, and never well, unless he 
lives co-operatively. And so both teacher and students co-operate 
in the classroom, encouraging each other to appreciate this triple 
aspect of human beings. But the encouragement would be senti- 
mental, false, irrelevant, if it were too direct and took place away 
from the context of learning something. 

Co-operation and recognition move properly in the context of a 
subject matter, whether it be algebra or social science. Both teacher 
and students must learn to recognize something between and at first 


if not always beyond them, the truth of the subject matter. To 
learn is to lose one's ego, and keeping and reinforcing one's ego is 
the danger of interpersonal relationships that have nothing in be- 
tween them. Curiosity and concern by themselves are empty and 
even sickly. Even two people talking together need something else 
to talk about than themselves, for, even to talk about one's self 
adequately, one needs a universal reference to lift the isolated and 
differentiated ego out of its prison. For this reason the experienced 
teacher will often hide his personal feelings about students, or will 
deliberately deceive them if he fears that they are becoming dis- 
tracted from the subject matter. 

To recognize the student is not only to know how different he 
is from others, it is also to sympathize with his condition and his 
efforts. And yet it may be fatal to show any or much of one's 
sympathy. There is nothing more delicate than the balance that a 
teacher or a good student has to keep between his recognition of 
the student as a person, as human being, and as a member of society 
and their mutual and yet always differing recognition of the 
subject matter they are co-operating on. One has to judge quickly 
and surely which side of this student he can appeal to, in order to 
open up the potentialities of a certain subject matter. To appeal to 
him as a member of society may mean nothing to him at a particular 
moment in his life or with a particular subject matter; to appeal to 
him as a human being may lift him out of an adolescent introversion. 
On the other hand, he may feel pressed by the multiplicity of re- 
quirements and ideas he is meeting and may need the reference to 
himself that pretends that he alone is sitting in the classroom. 

A teacher should be prepared to perpetrate almost any act or 
point of view in order to help students recognize the potentialities 
of the subject matter not for the sake of the subject matter, but for 
the ultimate benefit of the students and the community they will 
return to. The teacher's authority resides in his feeling and knowing 
the purpose and the workings of these recognitions. If the students 
catch on to the experience, their own initiative will be awakened, and 
from then on teacher and students will compete with each other to 
recognize first the truths that are between and beyond them. This 
will mean the continuation, the fruition, not just the beginning of a 
discipline both sides will employ. For there is a preparatory disci- 


pline of inquiry that the teacher uses by himself, before he has 
awakened and trained his pupils to act on their own and with him. 
To some extent he must be an example. His flexibility must have 
a clear sense of method and purpose and not appear as chaotic 
and confusing. And yet he must be so flexible that the students will 
not suppose they should imitate his method or his pronouncements. 
Shaw once said that, when a man learns something, he feels as if he 
has lost something. Learning is not initially encouraging. But this 
is because one is losing one's ego. The risk is that one delivers one's 
ego to the teacher, or the teacher to the student. The only way to 
avoid the morass of enslavement to persons, or sentimentality, is to 
study that which is in between persons. 

The appropriateness of the word "recognition" may best be 
understood in its relevance to the act of learning. We are indebted 
to Plato and to Augustine for our understanding of the significance 
of this aspect of experience. When a man knows something for the 
first time, it is as if he had known it before. That is why men 
say that they recognize something to be true. The new learning 
fits into the family of truths already held. This is what encouraged 
Plato to believe that learning is remembering. Augustine too be- 
lieved this, but, although he did not think this implied a previous 
existence of the soul, he thought it implied the existence in us of 
God who is Truth. For Augustine, learning is not only remember- 
ing but returning to the heart of man which is the Infinite and 
Creator in man. "Behold thou wert within me, and I abroad." When 
something is understood, it is recognized, reknown as it were, ac- 
cepted as both new and yet as familiar, as ever new. This would go 
to account for the double aspect of learning, the surprise of dis- 
covery and the satisfaction at the familiarity of that which seemed 
new but is perfectly acceptable. 

It is this sort of recognition that unifies life, that holds maturity 
and adolescence together. The perpetually adolescent mind retreats 
from familiarity and admires a freedom which is associated with 
novelty only. But there is no staying-power or depth of satisfaction 
to novelty alone. The mind tires of being a perpetual tourist. The 
truer image of the human journey is not that of the explorer or 
tourist but that of the voyager who is both adventurous and home- 
seeking. This is the greatness of the symbol and myth of Odysseus, 
as important for the journey of life as the figure of Jesus Christ is 


for the redemption and resurrection of that life. Along this journey, 
education is the typical experience. One might even call life's jour- 
ney educational; for life consists of a series of recognitions, which 
at best are related to each other, in which man meets something 
different and finds out that he knows his way around with it. If he 
can think of the journey as a homecoming and not as an adventure 
to the indefinite, then he can look on separate acts of learning and ex- 
perience as tastes of the final return to a world and a truth where 
he will be fully at home. To educate a man is to lead him home, to 
help him to return to that which is within him but not of him. To 
educate is to lead a man through the adventures and the wastes of 
shock, confusion, struggle, failure, discovery, assimilation, until he 
gets to expect the sign of truth, familiarity, behind every facade he 
claws at. 

Man is capable of many things, creative, co-operative, contempla- 
tive. But he is tragically limited, with the possibility of the rug being 
pulled from under him at any moment, by himself or by fate. His 
life is, therefore, essentially poignant, a mixture of effort and im- 
minent collapse. His basic understanding of himself is a nostalgic one, 
a recognition of himself as needing a home and as capable of much 
that he apparently cannot be. Only by forgetting, denying, abstract- 
ing, by risking splits in his consciousness, can man evade this nos- 
talgia and recognition. If he tries to find his existence honestly, clear- 
sightedly, soberly, he can have both ecstasy and quiet, both panic 
and pain, both ecstasy and panic, both quiet and pain. But it is 
dangerous to pretend or to forget that ecstasy can wipe out panic, 
or quiet wipe out suffering. Man is multifarious, but also polar. His 
life is based on the electrical current generated by such opposites. 
The educated man is one who has recognized this minimum of the 
truth of human nature and historybut in his own way and terms 
and is emboldened not to oversimplify man's condition. Whether he 
is a happy or a good man is another question altogether, a question 
requiring decision rather than recognition. Education is immediately 
concerned with recognition, not decision or action. Education can 
point to the way or ways to both happiness and good character; it 
cannot and ought not to prescribe or enforce. Education is the 
journey, not the end of the journey; the recognition, not the decision 
to accept the recognition and stay at home. 


Comments on Ralph Harper's Essay 


We have to be grateful to Mr. Harper that in addition to his 
most valuable book, Existentialism: A Theory of Man, he has now 
given us a profound essay on the relationship between existentialism 
and education. May I add some brief comments in order to underline 
the significance of this relationship in regard to the specific Ameri- 
can situation. 

i. Many of our courses in philosophy of education, just as many 
courses in our philosophy departments, offer the neophyte a clas- 
sification of the most important "schools of thought." This may be 
justified as an introduction, an overview, or a "first guide" through 
the gigantic museum of philosophical ideas. But it has two dis- 
advantages. Unless there is time for deeper concentration and there 
rarely is it leaves the student in the same bewilderment as the 
Louvre leaves the man who has dashed through all its halls in one 
morning. Where is, for the young educator, the rational bond, "das 
geistige Band" between the variety of opinions as well as between 
theory and practice for which the students in our universities are 
longing just as much, and often just as in vain, as the young Goethe 
almost two centuries ago at the University of Strasbourg? 

Fortunately, more than is the case with the primarily speculative 
philosopher who finds himself confronted with an infinity of prob- 
lems, the philosopher of education possesses a unifying idea, that is 
7;7*m himsetf, man as the being that needs a long education and 
struggles to master himself through living reflectively within the 
universe of which he is a part. 

Here, it seems to me, lies the affinity between the educator and 
the existentialist. Both enjoy, or suffer from, a multitude of questions 
and possible answers consider the whole gamut from Christ-cen- 
teredness to humanism and agnosticism. But whatever the dif- 
ferences, they agree that man is the starting point and center of 
concern. Since Kierkegaard, the "founder" of existentialism, pas- 
sionately protested, in the sacred name of the individual, against the 
rational-historical schematism of Hegel (and every existentialist is 
under the influence of these two protagonists), the interest in man, 
as he "exists," has remained as the link between existentialist thinkers 


who otherwise would be miles apart from each other. Man, as he 
"exists," that means in a slightly arbitrary use of the term "existing," 
as he is in the totality of his personality, not only rationally but also 
emotionally, is related to the great events and mysteries of life: 
birth, death, love, tradition, society and the crowd, success and 
failure, salvation and anxiety. 

Which educator, who is not only an "instructor" but a "teacher," 
can avoid thinking about the same great questions? 

2. In view of the comprehensiveness of the interest that unites 
the educator and the existentialist, two currents of thought that have 
influenced American education during the past decades, namely, 
pragmatism and experimental psychology, seem to many of us today 
too restricted in scope. Great though their contributions are, they 
fail to comprehend the wholeness of man. Despite their common 
aversion against idealism, they present an "ideal" man, i.e., a man 
fashioned according to their hypothetical pattern, rather than a 
"real" man. The pragmatic concepts of trial, growth, the experi- 
mental method, and the test of the final outcome were conceived 
at a time when humanity was supposed to climb the last cliff of the 
mountain of progress. Mankind has behaved disappointingly, and we 
ourselves feel no longer secure about growth and perfection as the 
inevitable result of the experimental attitude. Life cannot be under- 
stood unilaterally; it is dialectically structured. Democracy itself has 
much deeper roots than science and experiment, though it cannot 
exist without them. 

As Mr. Harper indicates, the person who speaks only of freedom, 
and not at the same time of commitment, of moving and not at the 
same time of the goal, may not understand the meaning and func- 
tion of either. In contrast, existentialist philosophy takes the com- 
plexity of life seriously. As a matter of fact, it starts from the admis- 
sion that man is the seeking, erring, and bewildered creature. 

Nor can experimental psychology be the teacher's exclusive guide 
for human understanding. Only parts of the totality and depth of the 
person are accessible to the scientific method as it is generally under- 
stood in departments of psychology and education. "Learning," the 
chief object of interest for the educational psychologist, is certainly 
to a degree "tension reduction" or something similar. But these terms 
do not represent the depth of the process of directed self-transcend- 


ence which is behind and within human learning, in contrast to the 
animal's learning. Man is not only a cross section of "behavior pat- 
terns"; he reaches into an ontological sphere, however veiled this 
sphere may be to our intellect. In comparison with the works of the 
great existentialist thinkers, poets, and novelists, take, e.g., Dostoyev- 
ski, a textbook on experimental psychology can only scratch the 
surface. That says nothing against the attempt to catch as many 
forms of human reaction and experience into the network of ex- 
perimental proof as possible. It only says something against false 
claims of completeness. 

3. Nor could existentialism itself ever be complete. One of 
its merits is that it helps us to understand the relativity of words 
and "isms" in comparison to the great enterpirse of living. The term 
itself is one of the labels that may be necessary for quick communi- 
cation but which carry with them just as much misunderstanding as 
mutual comprehension. None of the existentialist philosophers 
works in isolation from the great tradition. Existentialism could not 
even stand on itself alone. Mr. Harper's essay, like the works of 
Kierkegaard, Gabriel Marcel, Rousselot and Tillich, rests on Christi- 
anity; Jaspers' and Heidegger's philosophies are monuments of self- 
criticism of a long metaphysical, humanist, and critical tradition 
from the pre-Socratic philosophers to Nietzsche and Bergson. In 
Sartre a courageous humanism tries to come to grips with the nihilist 
realization of the nothing Uetre et le neant. In the writings of 
Kierkegaard one can find sentences which sound like quotations 
from Hegel. 

4. But in this openness to all of life's events lies also the short- 
coming of existentialism. Criticism of systems is necessary, but so 
are systems themselves. They are not only frozen ideas. Rather they 
are heroic attempts at integration of human experience at a par- 
ticular space and time, subject to the finiteness of human reason, but 
nevertheless its consummations. Hegelian dogmatism, as any other 
fixation of thought, has done much harm., However, there was in 
this country the Hegelian, William T. Harris, and, acknowledging 
his deep indebtedness to Hegel despite all deviation, John Dewey. 
This is perhaps one of the functions of systems. They are stumbling 
blocks; they create lines of defense and lines of attack. 

In this respect existentialism, despite its aversion to systems, makes 


no exception. All over the world it has aroused discussion and re- 
thinking. But in certain circles, it is also le dernier cri. To the horror 
of its leading thinkers, there already exists a sort of existentialist 
journalism, a floating in existentialist feelings, a flirting with despair 
and, consequently, also with religion, a cynicism about the idea of 
human progress, a blind hatred against technology, and a profoundly 
reactionary antirationalism. 1 

These attitudes of insincerity are dangerous anywhere, but they 
are so especially in education that demands not only empathy in 
and a fine sense for the depth of human situations but also direction 
and decision. Mr. Harper and I are agreed that nothing could be 
worse for education than a wave of pseudoexistentialism. But take 
the new philosophical movement seriously, let it operate in fruitful 
competition and mutual criticism with the scientist's hard empiricism, 
the educator's devoted efforts for human improvement, the reli- 
gious man's belief in the final meaning of human life, and the 
statesman's work for a better society. Then, through its positive 
ideas as well as through its aversion to superficial optimisms and 
rationalizations, existentialism will be a new motive power of 



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COLLINS, JAMES. The Existentialists. Chicago: H. Regnery Co., 1952. 
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Press, 1948. 


AUGUSTINE. Confessions. Translated by J. G. Pilkington. New York: Citadel 

Press, 1943. 
PASCAL, BLAISE. Pcnsees. Translated by W. F. Trotter. London: J. M. Dent & 

Sons, Ltd., 1931. 

Nineteenth Century 

DOSTOYEVSKY, FvooR. The Brothers Kara?nazov. Translated by C. Garnett. New 

York: Macmillan Co., 1927. 
. Notes from Underground. Translated by C. Garnett. New York: Dial 

Press, 1945. 
KIERKEGAARD, SOREN. The Journals. Translated by A. Dm. Oxford, England: 

Oxford University Press, 1938. 

i. Among the recent books critical of these dangers see F. J. von Rintelen, 
Philosophic der Endlichkeit als Spiegel der Gegenwart, Verlag Anton Hain, 
Meisenheim, which will probably be translated into English. 


. Concluding Unscientific Postscript. Translated by D. F. Swenson. Prince- 
ton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1941. 

NIETZSCHE, FRIEDRICH. The Joyful Wisdom. Translated by T. Common. Lon- 
don: T. N. Foulis, 1924. 

. The Will to Power. Translated by A. Ludovici. London: T. N. Foulis, 


Twentieth Century 

EARTH, KARL. Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans. Translated by E. C. 

Hoskyns. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1933. 
BERDYAEV, NICOLAS. Solitude and Society. Translated by G. Reavey. London: 

G. Bles, 1947. 
BUBER, MARTIN. / and Thou. Translated by R. G. Smith. Edinburgh: T. & T. 

Clark, 1937. 

CAMUS, ALBERT. The Myth of Sisyphus. Paris: Gallimard, 1942. 
HEIDEGGER, MARTIN. Existence and Being. Chicago: H. Regncry Co., 1949. 
JASPERS, KARL. Man in the Modern Age. Translated by E. & C. Paul. London: 

G. Routlcdge & Sons, Ltd., 1933. 
KAFKA, FRANZ. The Trial. Translated by W. & E. Muir. New York: A. Knopf, 

MARCEL, GABRIEL. Being and Having. Translated by K. Farrer. London: Dacre 

Press, 1949. 
PICARD, MAX. The Flight from God. Translated by M. Kuschnitzke and J. M. 

Cameron. Chicago: H. Regnery Co., 1951. 
PROUST, MARCEL. The Past Recaptured. Translated by F. A. Blossom. New 

York: A. & C. Boni, 1932. 
SARTRE, JEAN-PAUL. Existentialism. Translated by B. Frechtman. New York: 

Philosophical Library, 1947. 

SHESTOV, LEO. In Job's Balances. Translated by C. Coventry and C. A. Macart- 
ney. London: J. M. Dent & Sons, Ltd., 1932. 
TILLICH, PAUL. Systematic Theology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 

UNAMUNO, MIGUEL. The Tragic Sense of Life. Translated by J. E. Crawford 

Flitch. London: Macmillan & Co., Ltd., 1921. 
WEIL, SIMONE. Waiting on God. Translated by E. Crawford. New York: 

G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1951. 


Linguistic Approach to Problems of Education* 


Basic Orientation 

Beginning absolutely, we might define man as the typically lan- 
guage-using, or symbol-using, animal. And on the basis of such a 
definition, we could argue for a "linguistic approach to the problems 
of education." Or we could settle for much less, merely pointing to 
the obviously great importance of the linguistic factor as regards 
both education in particular and human relations in general. 


For symmetry's sake, we would build upon the more thorough- 
going of these positions. Yet, for prudence' sake, we would remind 
the reader: Even if he will not go so far with us, there are still 
many points in favor of restoring (however differently) the great 
stress once placed upon language in educational theory. (Recall 
that the medieval trivium comprised grammar, rhetoric, and logic 
or dialectic.) 

In either case, whether the more thoroughgoing or the less 
thoroughgoing of these positions is adopted, we shall be consider- 
ing our subject in terms of symbolic action. We shall look upon 
language-using as a mode of conduct and shall frame our terms 
accordingly. We could call this position "dramatistic" because it 
thus begins with a stress upon "action." And it might be contrasted 
with idealistic terminologies, that begin with considerations of per- 
ception, knowledge, learning. In contrast with such epistemological 
approaches, this approach would be ontological, centering upon the 
substantiality of the act. Also, a "dramatistic" approach, as so con- 

* Educational Consultant: Professor Kenneth Benne, Boston University, Bos- 
ton, Massachusetts. 

2 59 


ceived, is literal, not figurative. Man literally is a symbol-using ani- 
mal. He really does approach the world symbol-wise (and symbol- 
foolish). 1 

But a "dramatistic" approach, with its definition of man as the 
typically language-using or symbol-using animal, points two ways. 
First, the principles of symbol-using must be considered in their 
own right, as a separate "realm" or "dimension" (not reducible to 
"nature" in the nonverbal or extraverbal sense of the term). Second, 
the formula should warn us not to overlook the term "animal" in 
our definition. Man as an animal is subject to the realm of the extra- 
verbal, or nonsymbolic, a realm of material necessity that is best 
charted in terms of motion. That is, in his sheer animality, man is 
to be described in terms of physical or physiological motion, as con- 
trasted with the kind of terms we need for analyzing the realm of 
verbal action. 

Professor Brubacher has touched upon an analogous problem, 
when referring to the classical definition of man as "rational animal." 
As regards those who "subscribed to a humanistic theory of educa- 
tion," he says: "They held with Aristotle that the distinctive nature 
of man which set him off from other animals was his rationality. 
The principal function of education, therefore, was to develop this 

In general, this partial nonsequitur, in leading some thinkers 
to overstress the differentia (man's "rationality"), led others to an 
antithetical overstress upon the genus (man's "animality"). And if 
we are to abide by our somewhat similar definition, we must watch 
lest, in our zeal to bring out the formal considerations of the dif- 
ferential (language-using, or symbol-using), we slight the material 
considerations of the genus (animal). Or, otherwise put: We must 

i. Our views represent "semanticism" mainly in the sense that the emphasis 
is linguistic. But this essay does not propose to be a survey of the field. And, 
in one most notable respect, it runs directly counter to typical "semanticist" pro- 
cedures. The late Korzybski's teachings, for instance, centered about an attack 
upon what he called "elementalism." Another word for it would be "substance- 
thinking." While sharing his distrust of such thinking (political "racist" theo- 
ries are drastic enough grounds for such distrust) , we take it that the principle 
of substance (and consubstantiality) cannot be eliminated from language; ac- 
cordingly, we would seek rather for terms designed to make its presence as 
obvious as possible. Kant treated "substance" as a universal form of the mind; 
correspondingly, we would at least treat "substance-thinking" as a universal 
motive of language. 

BURKE 26l 

guard lest, in our zeal for a terminology of action, we overlook the 
areas properly chartable in terms of motion. 

Accordingly, a "dramatistic" terminology built about this defini- 
tion for man will not exalt terms for "action" to the exclusion of 
terms for "motion." If, by the physical realm, we mean the nonverbal 
("subverbal" or "extra verbal") realm, then the physical realm is 
properly treated in terms of motion. And "action" (ethics, "person- 
ality," and the like) will be confined to the realm of symbol-using, 
with its appropriate principles. Thus, a "dramatistic" perspective, 
as so conceived, would decidedly not oblige us to treat of "things" 
in the terminology proper to "persons" or vice versa. 

The problem is complicated by the fact that, while there can be 
motion without action (as with a falling material object, or the 
operations of some purely mechanical device), there can be no 
action without motion (as one cannot think or speak or carry out a 
decision without a corresponding set of sheerly neural and muscular 
goings-on). Thus, there is a sense in which every human act is 
merged with its sheerly physical or physiological ground. For in- 
stance, whereas the actions of a game are motivated by the logic 
of the rules, such acts also involve the sheer physical motions of the 
players and their instruments, in varying quantitative distribution 
about the field. (Nulla actio sine motione. A team can't win a game 
unless it knows how to "throw its weight around.") 

Or consider cases where moral attitudes affect physiological 
functioning (as when emotional disturbances produce disorders of 
the bodily organs). Here the realm of action (and its "passions"!) is 
seen to infuse the realm of motion in ways grotesquely analogous 
to the powers of a "grace" that, according to the theologians, "per- 
fects" nature. 

Thus, though the realms of "action" and "motion" are dis- 
continuous in so far as the "laws" of action are not in strict princi- 
ple reducible to the "laws" of motion (quite as the rules of grammar 
could not properly be reduced to terms suitable for electronics), the 
two realms must be interwoven in so far as man's generic animality 
is experienced by him in terms of his specific "symbolicity" 

Suppose, for instance, that we tried to conceive of "property" in as 
purely "physical" a sense as possible. We might note respects in 
which an organism "accumulates private property" by adapting to 


its particular needs certain portions of its environment. Its food, its 
air, its water, its sunlight, its space, its shelter, its mate some or all of 
these things may be "appropriated," in accordance with the specific 
nature of the organism. In this sense, assimilation could be said to 
involve a purely physiological kind of "private property," however 
mutual may be the relationships prevailing among various organisms, 
or "substances," in their "ecological balance." 

Here is the realm of "animality," of sheer physical "necessity." 
If the organism is denied the proper "motions" of assimilation or 
digestion needed for its survival, it dies. It must take into itself alien 
substances, in accordance with the nature of its substance. Some 
degree of such purely material appropriation, with the many mate- 
rial "motions" involved in these processes, is necessary to sheer ani- 
mal survival. And man, as an animal, confronts the same necessities. 

Think next of the many ways whereby such rudimentary needs 
are transcended, once we move into the realm of "symbolic action." 
Here we come upon the vast structure of "rights" and "obligations" 
that takes form when "property" is conceived legalistic ally (as with 
the "legal fictions" of a modern financial corporation, which the 
courts treat as a "person"). Surely no one would hold that the 
"needs" of such a "body" are reducible purely to terms of a few 
biological necessities. Ownership, as so conceived, involves a fan- 
tastically intricate network of purely symbolic operations, as evi- 
denced by the army of clerics who in one way or another are 
occupied with promulgating, recording, interpreting, and enforcing 
the sheerly wan-made laws of property. 

To consider this realm intelligibly, we must discuss symbolic ma- 
nipulations as such. For obviously, they have a "perfection" of 
their own, a formal resourcefulness that transcends the nonsymbolic 
or extrasymbolic realm of purely biological functioning. And such 
a realm of "personality" goes so far beyond the needs of sheer 
"animality," that whereas a physical organism can "biologically own" 
only so much as it can take into its body, or as it can by purely 
physical powers deny to another, a member of the symbol-using 
species may "symbolically own" resources that, in his capacity as a 
sheer physical organism, he could not exhaust in a million lifetimes. 

Indeed, once ownership becomes modified by the conditions of 
purely symbolic action, a realm of fantasy and paradox arises. Does 

BURKE 263 

a great leader, for instance, "own" his office as head of a state? 
Or is he not rather "owned" by his subjects who consider them- 
selves "consubstantial" with him, so far as their sense of participation 
in a common cause is concerned? Whatever your answer to this 
quandary may be, you will grant that such thoughts confront us 
with a great drama of human relations. For quite as a state is held 
together physically by a network of purely material communicative 
resources (things that exist and operate in accordance with the laws 
of motion), so this network itself is guided in its construction and 
control by a network of purely symbolic acts and symbol-guided 
purposes, ranging from the lowly processes of bookkeeping and 
accountancy to the over-all terminology of "right," "justice," "beau- 
ty." "propriety," "truth," the "good life," etc., in which the logic 
of a given social order comes to an ideal, theoretic head. 

Above sheer human animality, then (above man's genus as rooted 
in the laws of material motion), there has been erected a social 
complexity that could not have existed without the aid of man's 
differentia (his capacity for symbolic action). And in this sense, 
though we would warn against the temptation to forget the genus 
in our concern with the differentia, we would hold that the proper 
approach to the genus is through the study of symbolic action, as 
such action takes form in the drama of human relations. Otherwise, 
for reasons that we shall consider as we proceed, the failure to detect 
the full scope of the "linguistic dimension" in human affairs and 
human attitudes obscures our understanding of both the linguistic 
and the extralinguistic. According to the position here advocated, 
there is a "pageantry" in objects, a "socioanagogic" element imposed 
upon them, so far as man is concerned, because man necessarily ap- 
proaches them in accordance with the genius of his nature as a 
symbol-human species. Since language is social in the political, ad- 
ministrative sense, the purely physical sociality of nonlinguistic 
things thus subtly partakes of this purely symbolic spirit, so far as 
human dealings with "nature" are concerned. 

Here is the problem at the bottom of our search, as at the bottom 
of a well. Our motto might be: By and through language, beyond 
language. Per linguam, praeter linguam. 

The "dramatistic" is to be distinguished from the "dramatic," in 
that drama proper is the symbolizing or imitating of action, whereas 


the "dramatistic" is a critical or essayistic analysis of language, and 
thence of human relations generally, by the use of terms derived 
from the contemplation of drama. 

But the dramatistic can take great dramas as its point of departure. 
They provide the set forms in conformity with which we would 
construct our terminology. Since the real world of action is so 
confused and complicated as to seem almost formless, and too ex- 
tended and unstable for orderly observation, we need a more limited 
material that might be representative of human ways while yet 
having fixity enough to allow for systematic examination. 

In this respect, great dramas would be our equivalents of the 
laboratory experimenter's "test cases." But this kind of "controlled 
conditions" would differ from the arbitrary controls of a typical 
laboratory experiment. The losses are obvious, the gains less so, 
unless one stops to realize how hard it is to set up laboratory con- 
ditions for establishing instances of symbolic action that, while 
having a form sufficiently stable to be methodically observable, are 
also sufficiently complex and mature to be representative of human 
motives. 2 

But we may be on less cogent ground when laying primary em- 
phasis upon the examining of written texts. Professor Benne has 
tellingly raised this objection in correspondence, pointing to the 
many elements besides the literary text that figure in a dramatic 
performance, and suggesting that the present writer's occupational 
psychosis as a specialist in literature may be partly responsible for 
this textual emphasis. To be sure, though we can at least point to 
the example of Aristotle, who rated the text of a drama higher than 
its performance, we must never forget that many fresh exegetical 
insights come of witnessing actual performances (as when we com- 
pare different actors' readings of the same lines) ; and a sympathetic 
auditor may be mysteriously moved by a performance given in a 
language he doesn't even know). Yet, although histrionic and 

2. From the "dramatistic" point of view, for instance, experiments with ani- 
mals would be categorically suspect, since animals are not typically linguistic; 
and experiments with children would be categorically suspect, since children 
are not sufficiently mature. Such material might serve suggestively, but it could 
not possibly have all the "dimensions" needed for the analysis of any complete 
linguistic performance. And we work on the assumption that our test cases 
should intrinsically possess such a range. 

BURKE 265 

choreographic elements (tonal, plastic, and scenic) contribute criti- 
cally to the enjoyment and understanding of drama, don't all such 
modes of expression regularly build their logic about the interpreta- 
tion of the text itself? 

Professor Benne has further objected that we tend to neglect 
the fertile field of drama-like situations in real life (situations that 
may arise spontaneously, or may be set up partly by the deliberate 
cunning of an impresario; as with some "candid" radio and tele- 
vision programs). This is a particularly important objection, since 
education is so largely in the realm of public relations generally. 
Our point here is simply that one should not begin a "dramatistic" 
analysis with such cases. But co-ordinates developed from the anal- 
ysis of formal drama should certainly be applied to fluctuant mate- 
rial of this sort. Further, such applications, made by a different 
class of specialists, should reveal notable respects in which the drama- 
like situations of real life differ from drama proper (a difference 
probably centering in the fact that situations in real life lack finality, 
except in so far as life happens to "imitate art"). Professor Benne's 
desire to place more weight upon drama-like situations in life ("a 
playground fight, for example") led us to realize that, given the 
new recording devices for motion and sound, such new-style docu- 
ments do resemble the text of a formal drama, in allowing for re- 
peated analysis of a single unchanging development (an "action" 
that, in its totality, remains always the same). Here, in effect, the 
new means of recording, or "writing," have extended the realm of 
the "text" into areas that once lay beyond it. Such material comes 
close to the "textual" ideal we have in mind; since an observer can 
repeatedly observe the identical object, thus having the best op- 
portunity to mature his observations. 

Still (in an "occupationally psychotic" way) we feel that the 
written word comes nearest (so far as "records" go) to a merging 
of "linguistic anatomy" with "linguistic physiology." For single 
words (many of which are recurrent in the given text) are in their 
singularity quite "dead"; yet they are very much "alive," as regards 
their ways of taking part contextually with one another. And in 
the beginning of our culture was the assurance that in the beginning 
was the word. 

On the other hand, we do not by any means equate "symbol- 


using" with "word-using." All the arts, such as music, painting, 
sculpture, the dance, even architecture, are in various ways and to 
varying degrees symbolic activities. Verbal symbol-using (like its 
variant, mathematics) enjoys a special place among the lot because 
the individual word has a kind of conceptual clarity not found in 
individual notes, colors, lines, motions, and the like (except in so 
far as these are in effect words, as with the conventionalized doc- 
trinal representations in some traditional ritual dance). 

In this connection, Professor Benne has suggested that the justifi- 
cation for featuring language among symbolic media may "lie in 
the fitness of word-symbols for the criticism and analysis of the 
others, including word-symbols themselves." This observation sug- 
gested to us another step in the same direction, thus: Inasmuch as 
education merges into the philosophy of education, we may note 
that verbal symbols are the best medium for "philosophizing" about 

Professor Benne adds: 

Mr. Burke seems not quite to have met my point about the selection of 
cases to be used educationally for dramatistic analysis. True enough, 
"great dramas would be our equivalents of the laboratory experimenter's 
*test cases.' " And teachers, under the influence of dramatistic philosophiz- 
ing, would in their education have analyzed these "test cases" and would 
have acquired an appreciation of the folly and grandeur of man's differ- 
entia, symbol using, as well as skills in analyzing the complexities of 
language within the far-flung drama of human relations. But would chil- 
dren under the tutelage of such teachers delay their educational experi- 
ence with dramatistic analysis of human action until they had gained the 
maturity to deal with these "test cases"? I would hope not. I do not pre- 
tend to know at what age students might profitably analyze the great 
dramas dramatistically. Let's guess arbitrarily they might begin at fifteen 
or sixteen. Long before that time, of course, they are acquiring orienta- 
tions and habits toward using and being used by language, toward enact- 
ing the follies and grandeurs of human (symbolic) action. Shouldn't their 
education incorporate elements of dramatistic analysis before they are 
ready for the "complete texts"? I think it should. And some of the ma- 
terials for such analysis might well come from the dramas of human re- 
lations in everyday life in which they take part, using whatever devices 
of mechanical recording, spontaneous dramatization, participant obser- 
vation, etc., which might advance the learning. Perhaps students so 
brought up would be more ready to profit from analysis of the "test 
cases" par excellence when they were mature enough to deal with them 
directly than students who had had no previous orientation to dramatism 
and its methods. 

BURKE 267 


But for our over-all principles, we necessarily select terms so 
highly generalized that they apply to work greatly varying in quali- 
ty (just as both an "excellent" play and a merely "representative" 
one might be said to have beginning, middle, and end, or to be 
written in blank verse, or to be a tragedy). 

All told, the project approaches the problem of human relations 
through a study of language in its four major aspects: (a) the logical 
or indicative; (b) the rhetorical or persuasive; (c) the poetic; (d) 
the ethical or personal. But only some of the theories and rules of 
thumb on which this essay is based are directly relevant to the phi- 
losophy of education. And in trying to decide which parts of this 
material should be stressed here, we shall follow the very helpful 
lead of an article by Professor Benne, "Toward a Grammar of Ed- 
ucational Motives," published in the January, 1947, issue of Educa- 
tional Forum. The article is built around a review of the present 
writer's book, A Grammar of Motives, which outlines the "dram- 
atistic" view of language and of motivational problems generally. 
The article makes the following main points: 

The Grammar "may be read as a reaction against 'scientistic' at- 
tempts to 'reduce' the explanation of human conduct to the influence 
of various conditions and causes physical, chemical, biological or 
generally environmental." Burke "finds an irreducible minimum of 
terms necessary to the adequate discussion of human motivation," 
and he derives these "from his analysis of dramatic action." There 
are five such terms, which " 'point' in any human action to an actor, 
a scene, some agency (means), a purpose, as well as the over-all 
action in which the other terms are united." 

Again, "Whatever the various motivations of the semanticists, one 
may see Burke as a semanticist, seeking to give an interpretation of 
meaning and its transformations in a 'dramatistic' as opposed to the 
'scientistic' perspective which has prevailed in most semantic studies." 

"Still another approach" might stress the fact that "in focusing 
on the language of any discussion of motives," the book "is a 'gram- 
matical' approach to discourse about motives." Hence, "on this view, 
various philosophies become 'casuistries' seeking only to apply these 
grammatical principles in and to 'the case' of some actual and given 


cultural situation." Accordingly, Burke attempts a " 'casuistry' of his 
own, taking major philosophic systems as 'cases' and developing their 
distinctive characters in terms of their varying stress upon one or 
another of the terms of his pentad," as materialism features the 
"scenic" element in motivation, idealism stresses "agent," pragmatism 
"agency" (instrument), mysticism "purpose," and realism "act." 
(We might here add that the book also stresses the ways whereby 
the terms become functions of one another: Thus, by the "scene-act 
ratio" is meant a statement where the substance of an act is said to 
have been potentially or analogously present in the scene, and to be 
derived from the scene; similarly, an "agent-act" ratio derives the 
quality of the act from the corresponding nature of the agent; the 
"purpose-agency ratio" concerns the relation of consistency or con- 
substantiality between end and means; etc.) 

The project as a whole (including portions still to be published) 
aims at an "extended comic treatment of human relations, of the 
'foibles and antics' of 'the Human Barnyard.' " Reaffirming "the 
parliamentary process," it is motivated by a "humanitarian concern 
to see how far conflict (war) may be translated practically into 
linguistic struggle and how such verbal struggle may be made to 
eventuate in a common enactment short of physical combat." 

Other details noted: "encouraging tolerance by speculation"; a 
"Neo-Liberal Ideal" that proposes to accept with ironic resignation 
"the development of technology, a development that will require 
such a vast bureaucracy (in both political and commercial adminis- 
tration) as the world has never before encountered"; would "con- 
front the global situation with an attitude neither local nor im- 
perialistic"; and is designed to embody its attitude in a method of 
linguistic analysis. 

In his "howevers" (and howevers are of the essence in this per- 
spective) Professor Benne finds that Burke's book is not sufficiently 
"normative, preferential." But there is a partial however to this 
however: "Nevertheless, one can find implicit norms in his descrip- 
tion of his method," as with Burke's stress upon the dialectical, 
which is equated with "dramatism" at one end and with "scientific 
method" at the other, and with an over-all complexity of view that 
is ironic. (For irony "arises when one tries, by the interaction of 
terms upon one another, to produce a development which uses all 

BURKE 269 

the terms," in the methodic search for "a 'perspective of perspectives' 
in which the values of each partial perspective are in some measure 

Calling the book "a methodology of practical judgment," Pro- 
fessor Benne next refers to another work, The Discipline of Practical 
Judgment in a Democratic Society (by Raup, Benne, Smith, and 
Axtelle), which "attempts to do justice to the meaning of Burke's 
pentad of dramatistic terms in the act of judgment, though without 
the employment of his terminology." These two books "seem fruit- 
fully to supplement each other"; and they "make at least a beginning 
in this task of the interpretation of rationality and of contemporary 
symbolic adequacy." Or, in sum: " 'Symbolic adequacy' can only be 
developed," and "mastery of our linguistic resources (which are ulti- 
mately our rational resources) can be achieved if acquired in the 
dramatic perspective of the significant conflicts of our time." 

Among other considerations stressed in this perspective, we 
might list briefly: Their systematic concern with the principle of 
"identification" that prevails, for instance, when ruler and subjects, 
however disparate their ways of living, feel themselves united in 
some common cause; the gleams of "mystery" and corresponding 
feelings of guilt that arise when beings of different status are in 
communication; the modes of symbolic purification ingrained in the 
nature of symbolic action, and culminating in acts of victimage; the 
principle of completion to which language vows us, as when we 
round out a judgment upon others until it returns upon the self 
(cf. the Kantian "categorical imperative"); the verbal resources of 
transcendence y implicit in the initial momentous fact that the word 
transcends the thing it names; and, above all, the workings of that 
marvel of marvels, not present in nature, and found only in the re- 
sources of symbolism, the negative (with its "completion" or "per- 
fection" in the "thou shalt not"). 

The approach to human relations through the study of language 
in terms of drama makes such concerns primary and seeks to build 
a systematic terminology to treat of human quandaries in such a 
spirit. It contends that the basic motives of human effort are con- 
cealed behind the clutter of the machinery, both technological and 
administrative, which civilization has amassed in the attempts to live 
well. It contends that by a methodic study of symbolic action 


men have their best chance of seeing beyond this clutter, into the 
ironic nature of the human species. Yet it seeks to be as instrumental- 
ist as the instrumentation it would distrust. But while it would com- 
pletely grant that terminologies of motion are properly cultivated 
in those fields of applied science dealing specifically with aspects of 
motion (as the physical sciences), it would categorically resist any 
quasi-positivistic tendencies to treat of the human realm in such 

We must here leave many relevant questions unanswered. But we 
might close this section by a reference to the kind of "short-cut" 
which we consider primary, where the analysis of particular linguis- 
tic structures is concerned: 

We refer to the notion that the study of symbolic action in 
particular literary works should begin with the charting of "equa- 
tions." That is: When you consult a text, from which you hope to 
derive insights as regards our human quandaries in general, you begin 
by asking yourself "what equals what in this text?" And then, 
next, "what follows what in this text?" 

The study of such "equations" is a way of yielding 'without de- 
moralization. One cannot know in advance what the "equations" 
are to be (what "hero" is to equal, what "villain" is to equal, what 
"wisdom" is to equal, etc.). 3 Yet in one's search for such "equa- 
tions," which the author himself spontaneously exemplified rather 
than upheld as conscious doctrine, one is guided by method. Ac- 
cordingly, such analysis is no mere surrender, though it does set 
up a preparatory stage in which one wholly "yields" to the text. 

Having thus, without heckling, systematically let the text say its 
full say, even beyond what its author may have thought he was say- 
ing, we have the basic admonition as regards man, with relation to 
his specialty, "symbolic action." We see "exhortations" of terrifying 
importance being prepared for, even when a writer has no such 
intentions in mind. For, if certain elements equal "good" and cer- 
tain elements equal "bad" (or, what is often more important, if 

3. As for the importance of such an emphasis, consider the difference between 
the equation "reason equals respect for authority" and the equation "reason 
equals distrust of authority." Such equations are studied, first of all. in a non- 
normative, nonpreferential way, the assumption being that the best function of 
education is in giving us a free approach to such linkages, which otherwise tend 
to call forth automatic responses, making us in effect somnambulists. 

BURKE 271 

certain elements equal "socially superior" and certain elements equal 
"socially inferior"), then in contemplating the "dynamics" of such 
"equations" (their implied hortatory value), do we not contemplate 
the very essence of human foibles? 

And, at least within the ideality of our educational pursuits, are 
we not thereby admonished to watch and wait and not just pre- 
ceptorially, but technically? 

"Dramatism," the approach to the human situation "linguistical- 
ly," in terms of symbolic action, fulfils its purposes only in so far 
as it makes methodical the attitude of patience. The "dramatic" may 
thunder. It should. The "dramatistic," in a commingling of tech- 
niques and hypochondriasis, will "appreciate" man's ways of 

Educational Aims and Values 

Education, as so conceived, would be primarily admonitory. It 
would seek to become a sophisticated and methodized set of parables, 
or fables. Noting how man's distinctive trait, his way with symbols, 
is the source of both his typical accomplishments and his typical 
disabilities, education as so conceived would be first and foremost "of 
a divided mind," and would seek to make itself at home in such 

Far too often, education is wholly under the sign of the prom- 
issory. The serious student enters school hoping to increase his 
powers, to equip himself in the competition for "success," to make 
the "contacts" that get him a better-paying job. Vocational courses 
almost inevitably confirm such an attitude, since their main purpose 
is to perfect technical ability, to teach special skills. 

The "humanistic" aspect of the curriculum is usually approached 
in the same spirit, even by those who think of themselves as op- 
ponents of the vocational emphasis. The courses are expected in some 
way or other to help students "get ahead" as individuals. Humanistic 
education thus becomes the attempt to teach and to acquire the kind 
of "insignia" that are thought to be proof of cultural election. 

This pragmatic emphasis may not always be individualistically 
motivated. With the project of The Republic for the training of 
the guardians, for instance, the emphasis was rather in the direction 
of Plato's yearning that education might serve for the triumph of 


all Greek states, united in a common cause against the "barbarians." 
And nationalistic emphases in general would belong here; for al- 
though there is conceivable an ideal world of nationalisms that 
would be related to one another as peacefully as the varied portraits 
in an art gallery, we need no very difficult fables to admonish us 
about the ever-ready dialectical resource whereby national "dif- 
ferences" may become national "conflicts." 

Only a truly "universal" attitude toward educational purposes 
can modify this intrinsically competitive emphasis. Such an attitude 
would be grounded in the thought that all mankind has a major stake 
in the attempt to discipline any tendencies making for the kind of 
war now always threatening. In this spirit, we would aim at the 
discovery of methods that would be a technical equivalent of such 
uneasiness as, in religious terms, has been called the "fear of God." 
And we would seek for a technical equivalent of "mortification," 
thereby hoping to make active and mundane a kind of scruples 
now too often confined to the separate realm of the cloister. 

But such "technicalizing" would produce notable changes of 
emphasis, since we are here discussing purely secular modes of edu- 
cation. In this realm, the pious "fear of God" would be replaced by 
a partially impious "fear of symbol-using" (that is, an ironic fear 
of the very resourcefulness that is man's greatest boast). And "mor- 
tification" in the religious sense would have, as its secular "dramatis- 
tic" analogue, a methodic distrust of competitive ambitions which 
goad us either as individuals or as groups. Or, more accurately: We 
would try, at least within the limited orbit of theory, or contempla- 
tion, to perfect techniques for doubting much that is now accepted 
as lying beyond the shadow of a doubt. 

A mere inculcating of "tolerance," "good will," "respect for the 
rights of others," and such, cannot be enough. Such attitudes are all 
too airily "positive." And the educational training here advocated 
would be in its very essence negative, as negative as the Ten 

Yet its negativity would be of a paradoxical sort; we might label 
it "Faustological," since it would center in the study of ambition as 
a disease. At the same time it would concede that we had all better 
be very very ambitious and sufficiently exacting in our ambitiousness 

BURKE 273 

to cancel off the many prompter ambitions that, given the new 
weapons, threaten to destroy us. 

The pragmatic, the admonitory, and the appreciative thus merge. 
For we would study the means by which men have been able to in- 
crease their assertiveness; thereby we should be "appreciating" 
human genius, yet doing so with fearsomeness (albeit a fearsomeness 
which our technical approach enables us to temper in the kindly 
spirit of comedy, while we tentatively seek to develop ways of look- 
ing upon us all as fools rather than as knaves). But in such tripleness 
of emphasis, the admonitory (the "negative") is to be treated as 
"foremost among the equals." 

The aim, then, is to droop, at least ad interim (within the special 
conditions of the educational enterprise, considered as but one stage 
of a person's life) but to droop so methodically, with such an em- 
phasis upon method, that each day can bristle with assertions, as 
we attempt to perfect our lore of the human scramble (what Goethe 
calls the Zeitenstrudel, and Diderot the grand branle). 

Education, as so conceived, would brood, as with the Flaubert who 
wrote UEducation Sentimentale. But in its attempts to perfect 
a technique of brooding, it would learn to cherish the documents 
as never before. No expunging of records here. All must be kept, 
and faithfully examined; and not just that it may be approved or dis- 
approved, but also that it be considered as a challenge to our 
prowess in placing it within the unending human dialogue as a 

If we temporarily risk being stopped by such a discipline, let us 
realize that the discipline is ideally designed precisely to that end. 
Education must not be thought of merely as a means of preparing 
students for market, though that's what much of it now is. Educa- 
tion must be thought of as a technique of preparatory 'withdrawal, 
the institutionalizing of an attitude that one should be able to re- 
cover at crucial moments, all along the subsequent way. 

Admittedly, this view of education as a kind of smiling hypo- 
chondriasis presents some difficulties. The promissory, by its very 
nature, likes to look forward. And there is apparently danger lest 
youth would either too greatly resist such doctrines as a mere 
"counsel of despair," or would accept them only too thoroughly, if 
a whole educational program were undertaken in such a spirit. Per- 


haps, the world being what it is, this enterprise could be but one 
course in a curriculum, rather than the guiding principle behind 
educational policy in general. But if so, at least it would be con- 
ceived of as a kind of "central" or "over-air course, a "synoptic" 
project for "unifying the curriculum" by asking the students them- 
selves to think of their various courses in terms of a single distinctive 
human trait (the linguistic) that imposes its genius upon all par- 
ticular studies. 

Also, there can be much very active enjoyment in approaching 
the precious documents from this point of view. When the morti- 
fying "fear of man as symbol-user" has been "comically" technical- 
ized, such an attitude does not by any means close our horizons 
but opens many new vistas, making all aspects of symbolic activity 
somehow "contemporary" with us. 

"Drooping," as so qualified, can be quite muscular. 

Educational Process 


Primarily, we are ever to be on the lookout for grammatical and 
dialectical resources in general, while inspecting particular works 
for the discovery of special cases that forever keep threatening our 
frame of generalizations. In this respect, the procedure is not dif- 
ferent from the traditional modes of inquiry and placement. But it 
has a somewhat "existentialist" aspect, in that we constantly re-begin 
from unique experiences (since each book that we take as our point 
of departure leads into our generalizations from one unique set of 
conditions, and accordingly compels us to see them in a perspective 
never quite duplicated, if we take any other book as our "inform- 
ing experience"). Later, when discussing the negative, we shall 
consider another point at which this position closely parallels the 
existentialist one, if we have interpreted it correctly. 

The study is thus built pedagogically about the "indexing" of 
some specific "symbolic structure," in the attempt to study the 
nature of a work's internal consistency and of its unfolding. But in 
contrast with courses in "literary appreciation," the generalizations 
at which we aim are not confined to a concern with the work's 
"beauty." Our quest concerns its linguistic nature in general; and 

BURKE 275 

then, beyond that, the insight it may afford into man's ways as 

We proceed on the assumption that the "perfect case" for 
analytic purposes is a definitive literary text. This view, in turn, is 
doubtless but a variant of the traditional analogy whereby "nature" 
was likened to a "scripture" which would be legible if one but knew 
the language it was written in. In this case, the "signs" manifested 
by a human personality or by a social incident (or social order, 
or social movement, or cultural trend in general) would be treated 
as relatively obscure aspects of motivational structures that are least 
obscure in literary texts. There would thus be no difference "in 
principle" between textual analysis and social analysis. But though 
textual analysis would be the "ideal norm" here, there is no reason 
why specialists in other sciences could not apply the same proce- 
dures, mutatis mutandis, to their subjects (as with Freud's systematic 
attention to the "free associations" of his patients, or the use of 
questionnaires in polls of public opinion). Our major difference (if 
there is any essential difference!) is in the over-all direction we 
would give to such procedures. 

When the great executive has finished his murder thriller, and 
relaxed into a well-earned sleep after having gone, by a certain 
disciplinary route, from the killing of the victim to the killing of the 
mystery, our vigil has but begun. We must ask: "What does the 
victim equal? . . . What docs the killer equal? . . . What does the vir- 
tuously or disingenuously instigatory heroine equal? . . . What are 
the stages of this journey?" etc. 

And we do this, not just to learn something about the given 
work, but ultimately in the hope of learning something about the 
ways in which the "personality" of the work relates to the "per- 
sonality" of a social order; and then, in accordance with our project 
for methodic drooping, we look for ways whereby the work em- 
bodies, however assertively, even militantly, the malaise of a given 
property structure (with the goads, and "mortifications," and de- 
mands upon our "patience," and invitations to victimage, that are 
intrinsic to any such order). 

Tragedies are quite convenient for our purposes, since we accept 
Aristotle's statement that tragic poetry aims at a kind of "catharsis" 
and the explicitly civic, stately, or courtly nature of the tragedies 


traditionally accepted as great, makes easier our search for routes 
that clearly link mere "personal equations" with the "great per- 
secutional words," such as fate, law, right, justice, Themis, Moira, 
Nemesis, necessity. But other species of expression are also inspected 
for kinds of catharsis or transcendence proper to their nature. 

There are principles and rules of thumb to guide the task of 
"indexing." And one has available a set of at least partially co- 
ordinated statements about the nature of symbolic action in general. 
With this to start from, teacher and class are on a voyage of dis- 
covery together. Ideally, we keep open the channels that take us 
back and forth between general principles and casuistry, and, where- 
as certain methods for tracking things down have already been 
developed, teacher and class are engaged in a joint enterprise for 
perfecting these. But, whereas the original reading might have 
sought to track down a "villain," we rather would seek to track 
down the nature of the author's idea of "villainousness" conceived, 
not just historically, with regard to the "climate of opinion" that 
prevailed in a given social order but, universally or formally, with 
regard to the modes and motives of such symbolizing in general. 

We proceed by systematically "suffering" a given text, in the 
hope of discovering more about the symbolic activity in its par- 
ticular kinds of sufferance. "Formal discipline" is identical with the 
carrying out of such an investigation. "Truth" is absolute, in the 
sense that one can categorically make assertions about certain basic 
resources and embarrassments of symbols. It is nearly absolute, as 
regards certain "factual" statements that can be made about the 
terms of a given work. It is highly problematical, as regards the 
question that ultimately concerns us most: What is the nature of a 
symbol-using animal? Here, at least ideally, however emphatic we 
may become on the spur of the moment, we adopt as our primary 
slogan: "All the returns aren't in yet." And we would continue 
to keep alive this attitude (the "Deweyite" emphasis) by embody- 
ing it in methods that practically compel one to be tentative, at least 
during the preparatory stage when one is trying to locate all the 
significant correlations in a book, without deciding whether they 
are "good" or "bad," but trying rather simply to find out exactly 
what they are. 

Since every course in the curriculum is a symbolically guided 

BURKE 277 

mode of action, a placement of all courses from the standpoint of 
symbolic action violates none of them, though with regard to many 
scientific disciplines the linguistic approach can be irksome to in- 
structors who would persuade themselves and their classes that they 
are talking about "objective reality" even at those times when they 
happen to be but going through sheerly linguistic operations. Since 
every specialty has its terminology, it can be studied like any 
poem or philosophic treatise, for its "equations." And, indeed, if 
you inspect any given scientific writer's terminology closely enough, 
you can hope to find the bridges that join his purely technical 
nomenclature with the personal realm. 

But though such statements are required for a full account of 
human action in the realm of physical motion, a "dramatistic" ap- 
proach by no means requires that laws of motion as such be equated 
with action. Indeed, we have tried to show how the very self-con- 
sciousness of our stress upon action forces us to distinguish action 
from sheer motion (a distinction that is obscured, for instance, in 
Aristotle's term kinesis, though that very ambiguity is helpful in 
warning us how the two usages can cross, as when Aristotle himself 
"dramatistically" discusses the realm of physics in terms of "action" 
and "passion"). 

Though the student would not be abiding by the spirit of the 
enterprise if he merely set about such a fragmentary search as often 
characterizes doctoral theses, in all methods there is a large percent- 
age of "neutrality," in the sense that a theory of ballistics could be 
called "neutral," since it could be employed by either side to slay 
the other. Accordingly, analysis can be carried into lines that take 
us far from our primary search (any method being ambiguous 
enough in its potentialities to become detached from the attitude for 
which it was designed). 

Indeed, one can even imagine situations where, even if mankind 
did amass an authoritative lore on the odd kinds of "somnambulism" 
to which our nature as symbolists makes us susceptible, there might 
arise some calamitously endowed "throw-back" who used it all to 
make things worse rather than better, somewhat as when rules for 
the cure of souls are transformed into the techniques of "psycho- 
logical warfare." For, since every point of view has its correspond- 
ing "pragmatics," this dilemma of the ambiguities in power or meth- 


od is not confined to pragmatism. And, at least, the admonitory as- 
pects of our position can prevent us from thinking of any human 
resource, such as "mind," "spirit," "eloquence," "imagination," "in- 
tellect," "understanding," "rationality," as intrinsically good, rather 
than as prone to the trickeries (and the grandeurs!) of the symbolic 
order upon which such resources so strongly rely. 

The principle of "negativity" which is basic to the "dramatistic" 
approach, being essentially of a "repressive" nature (in contrast with 
liberal practices that often seemed to do all in their power to avoid 
the spirit of the thou-shalt-not), this approach must cope with the 
great threat to student interest that goes with such a concern. How- 
ever, as contrasted with earlier modes of scholastic regimentation, it 
says no with a difference. It says no by studying "no" by trying 
systematically to discover just how vast a domain the principle of 
negativity does actually govern, despite our assumptions to the 
contrary. Nor is such an investigation undertaken purely in the hope 
that, by such insight, one may be better qualified to emancipate one's 
self from the "reign of no." One must take it for granted that 
negativity of some sort is inevitable to social order, as conceived 
and constructed by an inveterately symbol-using species. And one 
must remember that the "negatives" of property and propriety are 
very "positive" in the sense that they affirm the given society's 
co-operative norms. Negatives shared in common can be like wealth 
shared in common. 

It is not for us a question whether man is naturally good or 
naturally depraved; it is simply a question of realizing that, as 
animality in general comprises a set of positive needs, appetites, and 
gratifications (ultimately reducible to terms of material motion), so 
the distinctive trait of man, his way with symbols, or languages, 
centers in his ability to use the negative of "conscience," a symboli- 
cally guided ability that is also interwoven with the thou-shalt-not's, 
or no-trespassing, of property. 


To guide our search, we keep in mind a curricular distribution 
of this sort: 

First, there are the sciences of motion, such as physics, mechanics, 
chemistry, astronomy, geology, mineralogy, oceanography. Though 

BURKE 279 

the building of such disciplines is in the realm of symbolic action, 
their subject matter is exclusively the realm of nonsymbolic motion, 
except in so far as they must criticize their o r wn terminology. 

The biological sciences would also fall under the heading of 
motion, though less absolutely. One may argue that there are the 
rudiments of symbolism in all living organisms, as attested by ex- 
periments with "conditioning" and "unconditioning," alterations of 
behavior which might be classed as the lowest kind of "learning," 
or "interpretation." But though one might possibly contend that 
there are respects in which nonhuman animals could be said to 
"read the signs," no one, within our present range of knowledge at 
least, considers any of these species "typically language-using, or 

Recent studies of the motions of bees and ants would seem to 
indicate that these species have a highly organized code of signals 
whereby individuals can communicate precise information to one 
another. So it is remotely conceivable that eventually investigators 
may "crack" the expressiveness of animal gestures sufficiently to 
find even the rudiments of a grammar in the ways whereby dumb 
animals behavioristically influence one another by the use of posture 
and sound to convey the sheerly "motive" equivalents of "meaning." 

In any case, we could still propose a way of distinguishing "sym- 
bolic action proper" from what we might call "sign-affected 
motion." Symbolic action proper is attested by a kind of "second- 
level" possibility. There is a sense, for instance, in which monkeys 
could be said to use tools as with situations wherein, if two sticks 
are so constructed that the end of one can be inserted into the end of 
the other to make a longer stick, the monkeys can learn this opera- 
tion and apply it to procure something that was beyond the 
reach of either stick singly. We might call such behavior the rudi- 
mentary "inventing of a tool." Yet we should not expect the 
monkeys to go a step farther and construct the device that made the 
two sticks joinable. That is, they do not manifest the rudiments of 
such "second-level" behavior as the making of tools for the 
making of tools. And human intelligence is marked by this second- 
level kind of activity, which we dramatistically attribute to the kind 
of intelligence implied in the ability to use language. For language 
readily uses not only signs but also signs about signs, as general 


words can be used to sum up a set of particular words, or as the 
written word "table" can be a sign for the spoken word, which in 
turn is a sign for the thing itself, or as we can talk about talk, a 
glory that attains its somewhat unwieldy flowering in a critic's 
critical critique of the criticism of criticism. 

Empirically and experimentally, at least, that would be our basis 
of distinction, until or unless further insight discloses the need for 
different dividing lines. And in view of the respects in which 
colonies of ants and bees are like burlesques of human social orders, 
presenting a set of motions that are crudely analogous to the 
actions and passions of a political community, we think it significant 
that these species seem to be the ones closest to being capable of 
human language. Presumably, such complex technology-like regi- 
mentation is possible only to a species capable of signalling fairly 
precise information or instruction. 

Though all action involves motion, we may next make a dis- 
tinction between practical and symbolic action (each of which 
requires a mediatory ground of motion). Practical action would be 
ethical (the doing of good), political (the wielding and obeying 
of authority), economic (the construction and operation of utilities, 
or powers). To say as much, however, is to realize that the practical 
realm is strongly infused by the symbolic element (since ideas of 
goodness, right, and expediency so obviously play a part in these 
practical acts). Yet in extreme cases at least, there is conceivable a 
clear distinction between practical and symbolic activity. It is a 
practical act to get in out of the rain, and a symbolic act to write 
a poem about getting in out of the rain; it is a practical act to eat, 
and a symbolic act to speak of eating. 

On the symbolic side of our alignment, we would make a further 
distinction, between the "artificial" and the "neurotic." A poem 
would be an "artificial" symbolic act; and so likewise with a phi- 
losophy or scientific theory. While pure theory would be on the 
symbolic side of our chart, the various applied sciences would fall 
on the practical side, though books about them would be but sym- 
bolic artifice. Historiography would thus be an aspect of artificial 
symbolic action, for however real the man Napoleon may have 
been, his place in a history or a biography is that of one symbol 
among others. He is a word. 

BURKE 28l 

Rhetoric would likewise be artificial symbolic action. Aristotle 
calls it a "counterpart of dialectic," thus putting it in the realm of 
sheer words. But its use for ethical, political, and economic purposes 
also brings it close to the practical side. For example, Longinus' On 
the Sublime deals largely with examples from oratory that was 
originally designed for a practical end but, long after the practical 
occasion had passed, was "appreciated" by him purely as poetry, 
because of its beauty or "imagination" as a robust symbolic exercis- 
ing to be enjoyed and admired by readers in and for itself. 

The other aspect of the purely symbolic, the "neurotic," might 
be subdivided into a distinction between those pathological condi- 
tions wherein the sufferer is still within bounds of communication 
and pathological conditions beyond communication. The latter kind 
(as with complete schizophrenia) might seem almost like a return 
to sheer motion, as though the sufferer had become but a vegetable; 
yet indications are that purely symbolic activity may here have at- 
tained a "simplicity" and "perfection" of inner consistency not 
possible to a symbol-system under normal conditions. Within com- 
munication would be the various partial "mental" disorders, high 
among which would also be the realm of "psychogenic illnesses," 
wherein the motions of the body have been radically disturbed by 
the passions that go with disorders of linguistic action. The artificial 
symbolic action of a poem becomes symbolic action of the neurotic 
sort in so far as the poem reflects the poet's attempts by purely 
symbolic means (by "beauties of the imagination") to solve prob- 
lems that require practical solutions (ethical, political, economic). 

But as soon as one stops to think how readily the artifice of a 
poem's symbolic action takes on neurotic ingredients, one may 
congratulate one's self that one's own favorite poets do not thus 
succumb; or one may congratulate one's self that one is not a poet 
but a "practical man of action." A linguistic approach to the study 
of human relations, on the other hand, would suggest rather the 
possibility that we are "poets all." Maybe, then, with a typically 
symbol-using creature, no solution of his difficulties but a perfectly 
symbolic one could content him, no matter how practical or normal 
he may think of himself as being. 

The educational process as here conceived is guided by this ironic 
likelihood: That man can be content with nothing less than perfec- 


rion, and that a typically symbol-using species will conceive of per- 
fection in a way that is essentially symbolic, somewhat as "angels" 
are sheer "message." Our study of poetic ritual, for instance, would 
be guided by this notion. And some of Santayana's ingenious con- 
ceits, concerning the aspirations of the spirit to so transcend material 
conditions that the mind dissolves into the realm of pure being, 
would be interpreted by us linguistically as the ultimate human 
hankering for a condition so thoroughly in keeping with man's dif- 
ferentia that his generic animality would be transformed into a per- 
fect symbol-system. A visible burlesque of such transcendence is 
seen in the Cyberneticists* dream of reducing all mental operations 
to their counterparts in the order of pure motion. And we all know 
of journalistic critics who read books so fast and write on them so 
quickly, their minds are hardly more than a telephone exchange 
where messages automatically converge and are automatically re- 

But here again, we come to the point at which, having stated our 
absolute position, we can settle for much less, as regards the processes 
of our study. We need but look for the respects wherein the socio- 
linguistic dimension is observable in all our actions, whereat these 
actions become symbolic of the principles infusing both a given 
social order and social order generally. This sociolinguisric nexus is 
headed in the principle of negativity, the astounding linguistic 
genius of no, which merges so perfectly with the conscientious 
thou-shalt-not's of property. 

Thus, in accordance with this view, whereas we would divide 
the curriculum in ways that allow for the traditional autonomy 
of the various disciplines, we would so conduct our investigations 
that we might glimpse, brooding over the lot, a lore of the uni- 
versal pageantry in which all men necessarily and somewhat som- 
nambulistically take part, by reason of their symbol-using natures. 4 

4. In sum: So far as the curriculum is concerned, its specialties would be left 
pretty much as they are, the biggest division being a variant of the "Cartesian 
split," in this case involving the distinction between "natural motion" and "sym- 
bolic action." But, as with semantics generally, dramatism would place special 
stress upon the purely terministic elements that might otherwise be mistaken 
for sheer "objective fact" in the nonlinguistic sense. For instance, laboratory 
equipment being linguistically guided in its construction, one should expect 
even the most objective of instruments to reveal a measure of sheerly "sym- 
bolic" genius. When considering acts in life, one may have to cut across the 
special realms of curriculum specialization, in so far as such acts themselves 
cut across these realms. 

BURKE 283 

School and Society: Social Philosophy 

Imagine an educational ladder of this sort: 

On the lowest rung would be the training of students in ac- 
cordance with immediate local purposes, a mode of "indoctrination" 
designed to assert a narrowly partisan point of view in subjects of 
a "controversial" nature, and to deflect attention from any social 
philosophy at all in subjects of a "free" nature, such as "pure" 

The kind of education on the next higher rung would be just 
as narrowly partisan in its aims but more prudent in its ways of 
working toward such aims. It would be wider in its range so that 
the student would also know something of other views, because 
such knowledge would better equip him to combat them. Looking 
upon all enemies, or even opponents, as instruments of the devil, it 
would nonetheless seek to give the devil his dues, not because we 
owe the devil anything, but because we owe it to ourselves to 
know his powers. 

Next above the second rung would be a more "humanitarian" 
view of alien ways. Holding that people generally have great moral 
virtues, it would, like the ethnologist, anthropologist, or sociologist, 
seek to describe and "appreciate" other groups, in all their varied 
habits, strengths, and shortcomings, not for partisan purposes, but 
purely in accordance with ideals of "truth" or "scientific accuracy." 
Although its findings would have been made in an impartial spirit, 
they could also be applied to narrower ends. In this respect, the third 
rung would be but the highest region of the second rung. Otherwise, 
it would be on a new level, having passed a "critical point." 

A fourth rung would be involved in a much more complicated 
set of maneuvers. Here, the kind of material assembled in investiga- 
tions on the third rung would be treated as voices in a dialogue. One 
would try to decide how many positions one thinks are important 
enough to be represented by "voices," and then one would do all 
in one's power to let each voice state its position as ably as possible. 
No voice deemed relevant to the particular issue or controversy 
would be subjected to the quietus, and none would be inadequately 
represented (as were one to portray it by stating only its more vul- 
nerable arguments). But although one would be as fair as possible 
in thus helping all positions to say their say, a mere cult of "fair play" 


would not be the reason. Rather, one hopes for ways whereby the 
various voices, in mutually correcting one another, will lead toward 
a position better than any one singly. That is, one does not merely 
want to outwit the opponent, or to study him, one wants to be 
affected by him, in some degree to incorporate him, to so act that 
his ways can help perfect one's own in brief, to learn from him. 

This fourth principle of education is the most mature of the lot, 
and the one that would surely be aimed at, in an ideal world of 
civilized and sophisticated people. But for that very reason, it is 
very difficult to maintain, except in glimpses and at happy moments. 
What actually happens in education is that, to varying degrees, all 
four of these emphases fluctuantly prevail. And if each were 
signalized by a different light that came on when it happened to 
be the dominant educational motive in the classroom and went off, 
to be replaced by the glow of whatever light signalized the 
motive that next took over, doubtless during a typical session the 
four would be flashing on and off continually. And though the one 
signalizing the fourth rung would certainly wear out last, it would 
have its moments, too. 

Though a linguistic approach to education could somewhat fit 
the needs of all four emphases (naturally being most cramped when 
used for rung one, which might be called the "Us fiber Alles" 
rung), it is not quite identical with any of them. Nor could we 
arrogate to it a rung still higher than the fourth. Rather, there is 
a sense in which, as we said regarding "free" subjects taught in the 
lowest rung, it would in principle deflect attention from any social 
philosophy. For social philosophies are partisan philosophies, and 
the study of man as symbol-using animal would deal with universal 
traits of the symbol-using species. (We shall later discuss reasons 
why such a principle cannot in all purity prevail.) 

Thus, whether confronting a "conservative" philosophy or a 
"progressive" one, we should set out dramatistically to analyze the 
structure of its statements, considered as symbolic acts. We'd ask 
what terministic devices are used here, how they combine, etc. 

In this sense, a linguistic point of view would be not so much a 
step "up" or "down" as a step to one side. It offers a technique for 
stopping to analyze an exhortation precisely at the moment when 
the exhortation would otherwise set us to swinging violently. It 

BURKE 285 

confronts a practical use of language for rhetorical effect by a 
theoretical study of such usage. 

A linguistic approach to human relations would probably be 
happiest with democracy, of all political systems, since democracy 
comes nearest to being the institutionalized equivalent of dialectical 
processes (with such hopes of maturing an opinion as we discussed 
in connection with the ideal dialogue of education at rung four). 
But Plato, greatest master of the dialogue form, has warned us that 
democracy is liable to degenerate into tyranny, owing to an un- 
manageable excess of liberty. And in practice, democratic states 
move toward a condition of partial tyranny to the extent that the 
channels of expression are not equally available to all factions in 
important public issues. Thus we see democracy being threatened 
by the rise of the enormous "policy-making" mass media that exert 
great rhetorical pressure upon their readers without at the same 
time teaching how to discount such devices; and nothing less than 
very thorough training in the discounting of rhetorical persuasive- 
ness can make a citizenry truly free, so far as linguistic tests are 
concerned. But we can say that ideal democracy does allow all voices 
to participate in the dialogue of the state, and such ideal democracy 
is the nearest possible institutional equivalent to the linguistic ideal. 

As for the question whether schools should be leaders or followers 
of social change, the linguistic approach confronts us with some 
paradoxes, which are due in part to the fact that the labels on 
social philosophies can rarely be accurate. For one can never be 
quite sure how a doctrine will perform, once it enters into com- 
bination with many other factors in life that are beyond its control, 
and even beyond its ken. We can always expect "unintended by- 
products." Think how many determined Marxists have been pro- 
duced by anti-Marxism, while Marxism has produced quite an army 
of determined ex-Marxists. And sometimes an unreasonable teacher 
in a grade school can serve as an object-lesson more effective than 
precepts for teaching students how not to be unreasonable. Nothing 
is more unforeseeable than the fate of a doctrine at the hands of 
its disciples. 

There is a sense in which the study of man as symbol-using animal 
can be tied to as many different local faiths as can the view that 
there is or is not a personal God. The analysis of language quickly 


teaches us the importance of combinations. A thinker can start with 
an unpromising term but can surround it with good ones, while 
another person can start with an excellent term and surround it 
very dismally indeed. 

But secondarily, a linguistic approach involves us in a social 
philosophy because of its accidental relation to certain social forces 
that may happen to favor or hinder it. It must be secular, for in- 
stance; for though it is not antagonistic to religious doctrine, it must 
approach such doctrine formally ("morphologically") rather than as 
doctrinally true or false. Accordingly, churchmen themselves can 
admit of such a formal approach, and often have done so; but where 
they would not do so, the linguistic approach would find itself ac- 
cidentally allied with a secular "social philosophy." Or, if pressure 
groups who are so minded and can exert sufficient influence ob- 
jected to the stress upon linguistic sophistication, then "dramatism" 
would find itself allied with a liberal social philosophy, even in a 
militant sense. And, of course, the position is uncompromisingly 
liberal in the sense that its first principle must be the systematic 
distrust of any social certainties as now set (our position here 
necessarily reaffirms the Deweyite prizing of the experimental atti- 
tude, backed by experimental method). 

Naturally, we identify such a program with both patriotism and 
international co-operation. It should be an aid to patriotism by help- 
ing to make demagoguery more difficult and by fostering an attitude 
that would make international co-operation easier. It would sharpen 
our sense of the fact that all men, as symbol-users, are of the same 
substance, in contrast with naive views that in effect think of aliens 
as of a different substance. Dramatism thus, by its very nature, im- 
plies respect for the individual. Again, we should recognize that our 
stress upon the major importance of the negative may seem "re- 
actionary" to some liberals, particularly those who have striven 
valiantly to find ways of "not saying no" to children. 

Perhaps we might best indicate the nature of our social philosophy 
by referring to the kind of "linguistic exercising" that we think 
wholly in keeping with the spirit of this project: 

If one should read in a newspaper some "factual" story that ob- 
viously produced a pronounced attitude for or against something, 
while reading it one would try to imagine how the same material 

BURKE 287 

might have been presented so as to produce other attitudes. It is 
not, thus, a matter of deciding about the "factual accuracy" of the 
story, a matter about which in most cases you will not be equipped 
to make a decision. You will permit yourself speculatively a wider 
range of freedom as regards its stylization. That is, you counteract 
"slanting," not by trying to decide whether the reporter is honest 
or a liar, or even whether he is fair or unfair, but by leaving unques- 
tioned the facts as given and merely trying to imagine different 
ways of presenting them, or by trying to imagine possible strategic 

Or, were the earlier pedagogic practice of debating brought back 
into favor, each participant would be required, not to uphold just 
one position but to write two debates, upholding first one position 
and then the other. Then, beyond this, would be a third piece, de- 
signed to be a formal transcending of the whole issue, by analyzing 
the sheerly verbal maneuvers involved in the placing and discussing 
of the issue. Such a third step would not in any sense "solve" the 
issue, not even in the reasonable, sociological sense of discovering 
that, "to an extent, both sides are right." Nor would we advise 
such procedures merely as training in the art of verbal combat. For 
though such experience could be applied thus pragmatically, the 
ultimate value in such verbal exercising would be its contribution 
toward the "suffering" of an attitude that pointed toward a dis- 
trustful admiration of all symbolism, and toward the attempt sys- 
tematically to question the many symbolically-stimulated goads that 
are now accepted too often without question. 

Or a student might write an essay analyzing the modes of utter- 
ance in two previous essays he had written, one of which traced 
man's progress "upward" from "savagery" to the "high standard 
of living" provided by modern technology, while the other treated 
this same development as deplorable "degeneration," with profound 
tribal conscientiousness overgrown by a wilderness of superficial 
abstract law. 

We can never sufficiently emphasize, however, that we are think- 
ing of education as a tentative, preparatory stage in life, not as a final 
one. It is final only in the sense that it possesses its own kind of 
completeness and thus, ideally, should be recoverable at all stages 
in one's life. For it develops to perfection one stage in the confront- 


ing of a problem, the stage where one steps aside as thoroughly as 
possible and attempts, in the spirit of absolute linguistic skepticism, 
to meditate upon the tangle of symbolism in which all men are by 
their very nature caught. 

The corresponding methods of interpreting man's entanglements 
have been sloganized by us elsewhere as the "socioanagogic," since 
a primary aim here is to discover in what respects the objects of this 
world are enigmatic emblems of man's relation to the social order 
(that is, in what respects they may possess for man a "symbolic" 
character, over and above their nature as sheer things). Since lan- 
guage, however manipulated by the individual user, is essentially 
a collective or social product, the powers of the social order will 
inevitably be manifested in it, quite as these powers can only be 
developed by the use of linguistic resources. A social philosophy, as 
so conceived, would be built about four orders: the verbal or 
linguistic; the sociopolitical; the natural; the supernatural. And we 
shall end this section by briefly indicating the relation we think they 
bear to one another. 

The verbal pyramid is most clearly revealed in the design of 
Platonist and Neo-Platonist dialectic, the upward way from particu- 
lars to higher and higher orders of abstraction, matched by a corre- 
sponding downward way from the one to the many which are im- 
bued with the substance of its oneness. Such resources become inter- 
woven with whatever social order happens to prevail, or to have pre- 
vailed when the symbolic traditions were taking form. Such order 
has its more or less clearly defined pyramidal structure, with criteria 
for distinguishing the direction socially up from the direction social- 
ly down. Here we would look for the situations which gave form to 
the terminology for familial relationships, and to the great persecu- 
tional words that grandly sum up the principle of negativity inherent 
in the nature of property. 

Third, there is the natural order, whether conceived along Aristo- 
telian lines (as in the medieval concern with the "great chain of be- 
ing,") or along Darwinian lines, charting an evolutionary "descent" 
from "lower" kinds of entities to "higher" kinds. This is the order 
that, in the dramatistic terminology, is most fittingly discussed in 
terms of motion. 

And finally, there are terms for a supernatural order, a terminology 

BURKE 289 

constructed after the analogy of the other three, since there can be 
no empirically literal vocabulary for the description of a realm that 
by definition transcends the conditionality of human language and 
human experience. That is, if the ultimate scene, or "ground of all 
possibility" is called a "lord," a supernatural relationship is being 
named metaphorically, in terms of what is, so far as our institutions 
are concerned, an obsolete social relationship. And the description of 
God as "simple" is in accordance with certain dialectical resources 
that permit of progress toward an over-all "term of terms" that will 
sum up complexity much as the title of a novel could be said to 
simplify the myriad details by one word that stood for the single 
spirit infusing them all. And terms referring to God as a body would 
be borrowed from the natural order. 

But there is a paradox upon which a dramatist philosophy of social 
motivations lays great emphasis: Whereas we are by the nature 
of the case compelled to see the part that the other three orders of 
terms play in the terminology of the supernatural order, and whereas 
we are familiar with the transcendentalist dialectic of a writer, say, 
like Emerson, who contrives to interpret the many agencies of the 
everyday world as all variously embodying a single supernatural 
purpose, it is much harder to detect the ways in which the linguistic 
and social orders affect our ideas of the natural order. And this is 
the enigma, above all others, with which dramatism, as a social 
philosophy, is engrossed. 

By the socioanagogic emphasis in linguistic criticism, we refer to 
a concern with the ways in which the structure of the social and 
linguistic orders affects the metaphors men use for the supernatural 
order and colors the "empirical reality" which men think they 
perceive in the natural order. We believe that the natural order is 
profoundly infused with symbolism, "mystery," and "divinity" of 
a purely secular and social sort, however transcendent its gleam may 
sometimes seem to be. Here, we believe, is a major source of man's 
exorbitant goads and false exaltations. We believe it to be a major 
source of the scramble so incessantly plaguing great nations that 
most persons seem to take it as "the norm," sometimes assuring us 
that man is "naturally predatory," and sometimes in unconscious 
sacrilege interpreting such worldly struggle as an evidence of man's 
"divine discontent." 


An educational policy constructed in accordance with this princi- 
ple would ground its techniques in a social philosophy that looked 
upon such inquiry as the ultimate end of secular study. But one 
could not know what the actual "alignments" in such a project 
would be, what social forces would be for it and what against it, 
unless it were actually attempted on a considerable scale. 

The School and the Individual 

But our zeal for the negative or admonitory in education should 
not seem to prevail over its counterpart, the lore of "positive" ap- 
preciation. With regard to the three major aims of education as so 
conceived, training in skills, moral admonition, and aesthetic ap- 
preciation (note that they are secular or technical analogues of the 
trinitarian three: "power," "wisdom," and "love"): Here would be 
an excellent point at which to remember the claims of the third. 

Skills, we might say, are like the metal of a coin. On its reverse 
side is stamped the negativistic, admonitory social or moral philos- 
ophy of language. But on its obverse there are markings of a wholly 
different sort, to signalize the realm of aesthetic delight. 

In so far as the suffering of man's hierarchal burdens is to be as 
a growing old, the aesthetic affirming of the resources natural 
to such conditions is like being born anew, as with the "equations" 
of Goethe's Faust. (And perhaps if we accept a pedagogically "mor- 
tifying" device that makes us theoretically old while we are still 
physically young, we may get "as a bonus" a compensatory device 
that can keep us theoretically young when we are physically old.) 

When we are under the sign of appreciation, the very same things 
that we had considered "droopingly" can now be viewed with al- 
most the expectant air of a young puppy, that seems always brightly 
ready for some astounding thing to happen. Here is our chance 
for an Emersonian recovery, an aesthetic "compensation." 

The negatives we would impose upon the individual (or rather, 
the negatives we would have him recognize as having already been 
imposed upon him by the combination of the social and linguistic 
orders, as re-enforced by the mechanical necessities of the natural 
order) are "collective," bearing upon his obligations to the tribe, 
and to himself as member of the tribe. Here would be a secular 
variant of "original sin." 

But in contrast, his positive, aesthetic enjoyments can be received 

B U R K F. 291 

by him as an individual (though the public nature of the symbolic 
medium, through which he aesthetically receives, makes it unlikely 
that individual delights of this sort can be merely "solipsistic"), and 
the zeal with which we tell others of our enjoyments indicates how 
eager we are to "socialize" everything, a tendency which the social 
nature of language would help impose upon us, but which cannot 
overweigh the fact that when you enjoy the taste of a particular 
orange, it is being enjoyed by you and none other. 

So, although the tribal negatives are uniquely translated into the 
decisions of each individual "conscience," and although aesthetic 
enjoyment, too, has its "tribal" aspects (as with the distinctive ex- 
altations that can affect public gatherings), we would treat the 
aesthetically positive under the head of "the school and the individ- 
ual," whereas the moralistically negative seems to have fitted best 
under the head of "school and society." 

As regards this relation between moralistic admonition and aes- 
thetic appreciation, once you "get the idea" of the pattern, you see 
how readily all ethical misgivings can become transformed into aes- 
thetic promises, thus: 

Have we proposed a distrust of ambition? Then see, on the other 
hand, what great tragic assertions have been made of this distrust, 
as with the grotesqueries of Macbeth, or the stateliness of murder 
in Julius Caesar. Do we discern how the motives of sheer ownership 
figure in relations between husband and wife? Then note how these 
are made almost exultant in Othello. 

Does a writer seem to suggest that he despises all people, either in 
particular or in general? Then note how, by the very scrupulousness 
of his work, he shows that he most earnestly respects an audience. 
And no matter how questionable the scramble, there is a gallantry, 
an essential cult of the compliment, implicit in the earnestness with 
which a good artist will bring the best he has to market, even though 
he suspects that, by not making it worse, he may sell it for less. 

Is there an overriding fear of death? Then see how the poet ex- 
ploits this attitude to the ends of pomp, in the hope of infusing his 
work with a funereal, corpse-like dignity. 

Is there a need of victimage, to relieve ourselves by thoughts of 
a vicarious sacrifice? Must we look for a goat? Then see how such 
impulses are made grand by the devices of tragedy. 

Does the weight of a social order oppress us grievously, driving 


us within ourselves, imposing upon us the involuntary vows of 
psychogenic illness, making us prone to fantasies of sexual perversion 
that represent, in terms of erotic appetite, the jealousies and malice 
and self-punishments typical of the "hierarchal psychosis"? All this 
may, by the "alchemy of the word," be transformed into an aes- 
thetic "remembrance of things past," that loves to contemplate the 
pageantry of corruption. And the tangled social motives may come 
to take the form that Stanley Hyman has called the "Albertine 
strategy" (having in mind Proust's resources whereby a heterosexual 
love is imagined not directly, but roundabout, by the aesthetic per- 
verting of an experience that, in the real moral realm, had been 

Have we questioned the entire modern cult of gadgetry by which 
the wheels of industry are largely kept going, over and above pro- 
duction for war goods? Then note how this same gadgetry becomes 
the pleasant movement and glitter of a spectacular Hollywood 
revue, in which woman plays a leading role, as the gadget of gadgets. 
Well-groomed, specious flesh clothing the skeleton. 

There is no tangle so hopeless that it cannot, with the symbol- 
using species, become the basis for a new ingenious assertion that 
transcends it, by the very nature of linguistic assertion. No way of 
life can be so wretched, corrupt, or even boring that some expert 
symbol-user or other can't make it the subject matter of a good 
book. Wherever you might moralistically exclaim, "How awful!" 
there is the opportunity for the aesthetic to answer spiritedly, "But 
how delightfully awful!" 

In sum, there is the transcendence in expression as such (the point 
emphasized in the Crocean aesthetic). Atop that, there is the tran- 
scendence implicit in the processes whereby the work "purifies it- 
self" in the course of its unfolding. And beyond that, there is tran- 
scendence by the various ways whereby we feel ourselves similarly 
purified while undergoing the imaginary discipline of the story's 
action and passion (undergoing such either as spontaneous specta- 
tors or as students, or both). And so, each time we inspect a great 
work of human thought (that is, a great symbolic exercising), we 
can be delighted by the manifestations of its genius, a skill whereby 
even the accents of lamentation can be transformed into the 

BURKE 293 

Here is a glorious realm of solutions. Here is easy going, atop 
hard going. But such expression is at the same time fearsome by 
reason of its very felicity, in so far as the availability of such cun- 
ning resources may tempt us to perpetuate an underlying moral ill 
by cultivating the happy exercise that makes it beautiful. A familiar 
example appears in the popular art patronized by commercial ad- 
vertisers which helps make insatiable in real life the very appetites 
which it symbolically gratifies in the world of make-believe. In any 
case, by dodging between aesthetic positives and moralistic negatives, 
one seeks to improvise the "good life." Such an attempt is always 
complicated, as Aristotle's Ethics reminds us, by the fact that, before 
one can live well, one must contrive to live. 

However, when we attempt charting the good life, we must be 
linguistically shrewd about our own statement, too. There is always 
the invitation to express such matters in terms more or less flatly 
opposed (polar terms, they have often been called), with some 
variant of the thought that what we want is a middle road between 
the two extremes. A variant is the discovery that, where two opposed 
principles are being considered, each of which has the "defects of 
its qualities," what we want is something that avoids the typical 
vices of either and combines the typical virtues of both. Or, dialecti- 
cal resources being what they are, we can readily propose that any 
troublesome either-or be transformed into a both-and. Thus, when 
thinking of "authority, control, and discipline" on the one hand, 
and of "freedom and initiative" on the other, most people are likely 
to opt for a moderate mixing of the two. "There should be both 
respect for the individual and subordination of the individual to the 
group; there should be both patriotism and internationalism, in happy 
balance; education, as the projecting of traditions into new situations, 
must combine conservative and progressive tendencies; student in- 
terest must not be stifled by overly authoritative guidance, yet the 
student should not be deprived of such guidance where he requires 
it," etc. Such linguistic resources suggest why even excessively one- 
sided educators might tend to think of themselves as serving under 
the sign of the golden mean. 

And there can be further very good reasons for such a view. As 
regards the relation between authority and freedom, for instance, 
the investigating of symbolic action is still in a highly problematical 


stage, while many teachable principles and rules of thumb have al- 
ready been formulated; and this situation of itself almost compels 
one to ask of the student a kind of discipline not distinguishable 
from pronounced personal initiative. 

And there is always the aura of promise in education, a promise 
implied when it is not made explicit. This promissory motive came 
to the aid of the various fly-by-night outfits that quickly cooked 
up likely looking courses to profit by the situation of the returning 
soldiers, with funds at their disposal under the G.I. educational bill 
of rights. Courses in vocational training draw especially on such 
hopefulness, on the willingness of the student-customer to be assured 
that, if he takes the course, he will somehow have a much better 
chance to hit the "jack pot" and thereby to experience the deliciously 
immoral thrill that occurs when a slight gesture, made accidentally 
at the right time, disproportionately calls forth an abrupt unloosen- 
ing, an indecent downpour, of revenue. 

Thus, the promise will be there to some extent, even when it's 
false. And it should never be wholly false, so far as a linguistic ap- 
proach to education is concerned. For the analysis of symbolic action 
should not only sharpen kinds of perception that are competitively 
useful to the manipulating of symbols, it should also contribute to 
our lore of human foibles in general, and so make for much sheer 
shrewdness as regards the ways of the scramble. This should be 
particularly the case if the study of linguistic tactics is extended to 
a "post-Machiavellian" kind of inquiry in a realm where purely 
rhetorical devices overlap upon a realm of nonverbal materiality, as 
with the pronouncements of promoters, politicians, diplomats, edi- 
tors, and the like, whose use of purely symbolic resources is backed 
by a tie-in with organizational or bureaucratic forces. 

But, ideally at least, viewed in "the absolute," an educational pro- 
gram of this sort would come closer to such promises as were once 
called the consolatio philosophiae. Admonition would make of ed- 
ucation a watching and waiting, appreciation would seek out the 
positive attitudes that corrected such negatives. Its great stress upon 
linguistic skepticism would imply that it is not designed to make 
up the student's mind for him. For it could not arrogate to itself 
the right (or assume that it had the ability) to anticipate the par- 
ticularity that characterizes an individual's decisions. In fact, it can- 
not even deny its knowledge of paradoxical cases where training 

BURKE 295 

can be a sheer handicap to a man, as when the sudden introduction 
of new technological methods required that the former experts be 
discharged, since their very fitness for the old ways made them 
less fit for the new ways. It can, however, make such considerations 
an important part of its teaching, in accordance with the particular 
kinds of quizzicality in which it would become at home. 

Education, as so conceived, would be willing to give full recogni- 
tion to every important favorable and unfavorable factor in a given 
situation. If it failed to meet such tests, the failure would be caused 
by lack of knowledge or perception, not by any categorical claims 
to individual, professional, national, or universal rights or dignities, 
except the right and dignity of doing all in its power to study the 
lore of such rights and dignities. 

Such, then, is what we take to be the nature of education as "prep- 
aration for adult life." The obligations of order hang over us, even 
if we would revolt against order. Out of such predicaments, in- 
genious fellows rise up and sing; thus promptly have all our liabilities 
been by symbol-using converted into assets. Similarly aesthetic, 
from this point of view, is any way of analytically enjoying the 
ways of rising up and singing. These ways may be "diagnostic," as 
all education in one sense is. And so we are led back to the realm 
of the admonitory. 

And finally, and above all, in keeping with our "socioanagogic" 
search for the ways in which the magic of the social order infuses 
men's judgments of the beautiful (quite as it infuses their ethics and 
their perception of even "natural" things) we watch everywhere 
for the manifestations of the "hierarchal" motive, what Ulysses, in 
Troilus and Cressida, calls "degree." It is only "by degree," he de- 
claims, that communities, schools, brotherhoods, businesses, inherit- 
ance, the prerogatives of age and office, even the regularities of 
nature, "stand in authentic place." Accordingly, "Take but degree 
away, untune that string, / And, hark! what discord follows; each 
thing meets / In mere oppugnancy." And later, with a strange im- 
agistic paralleling of Othello, he sums up: "Chaos, when degree is 
suffocate, / Follows the choking." We cite from this long passage, 
not exactly to reaffirm the Shakespearean answer, but to recall how 
vast, in the perspective of Shakespearean drama, was the scope of 
the question. 


School and Religion 

The study of religion fits perfectly with the approach to education 
in terms of symbolic action. What more thorough examples of 
symbolic action can be found than in a religious service? What is 
more dramatistic than the religious terminology of action, passion, 
and personality? What terminology is more comprehensive than 
the dialectic of a theologian? What is linguistically more paradoxical 
than the ways wherein the mystic, seeking to express the transcend- 
ently ineffable, clothes theological ideas in the positive imagery of 
sheer animal sensation? Where, more perfectly than in versions of 
the heavenly hierarchy, can we find the paradigms of hierarchal 
terminology? And, as regards the principle of negativity, where 
does it figure more ultimately than in the dialectical subtleties of 
negative theology? 

The great depth and scope of religious terminologies; the range 
of personalities and problems that have found accommodation within 
the religious framework; the kind of "inner freedom" that goes with 
the cult of ultimate praise made possible by the religious rationale; 
the religious placement of beauty and the practical; the ways in 
which religious scruples can sharpen even purely secular kinds of 
sympathy and awareness to think of such matters is to realize that 
the long tradition of religion provides us with a field of study as 
vital and as sweeping as the over-all history of human culture itself. 

Thus we could state unequivocally that the language of religion 
is the most central subject matter for the study of human relations 
in terms of symbolic action. Or perhaps we should make the claim 
even more specifically, in saying that the central concern would be 
not just religion, but theology, that is, the strict realm of dogma, and 
of a church's symbolic practices (its rites and rituals) as placed in 
terms of its dogmas. 

But though ideally the dramatistic approach heads in the study 
of religious forms, the social obstacles are obvious. First, in a nation 
of many faiths, there would be embarrassment in the mere singling 
out of any one doctrine for special study, in a secular school. Sec- 
ond, dramatism would also require a systematic concern with the 
misuses to which a religious terminology can be put, as when its 
spirituality becomes a sheer rhetorical shield for the least spiritual 

BURKE 297 

of special interests. And though, if nothing else were involved, a 
truly religious person might be expected to welcome any teachings, 
from whatever source, that help admonish against the misuse of 
religion, there are many kinds of susceptibility here that make such 
considerations unadvisable. 

Consider, for instance, the frenzy with which Moliere was at- 
tacked for his comedy, Tartuffe, his enemies proclaiming that re- 
ligion itself had been slandered in his portrait of a religious hypo- 
crite. And even though a dramatistic analysis of such matters would 
be much milder, since it would but "study" temptations that Moliere 
sought to make dramatically salient, it could not go far without 
raising resentments that would militate against its own purposes, by 
intensifying the very passions it would assuage. 

Fortunately, the main concern in a dramatistic treatment of re- 
ligious language (and of the rites rationalized by such a language) 
resides elsewhere. There are broad principles of theological place- 
ment that can be studied, for instance, when one is studying modes 
of placement in general. Thus, when considering the formal rela- 
tionship that prevails between "scene" and "act" in a systematic 
terminology dealing with such matters, one can include various 
theological pronouncements in a list that also includes various secular 
treatments of the same problem. And by such means, theological 
considerations can be introduced relevantly, without much risk of 
the embarrassments that might result if a class of secular students 
were to "index" any one religious terminology as thoroughly as 
they might index a novel or drama. 

A dramatistic stress could not simply omit such subjects, however. 
For the position is based on the awareness that religious terminologies 
have charted with especial urgency and thoroughness the problems 
of "sin" and "redemption" as these take form against a background 
of hierarchal order. Here, then, are the grandest terminologies for 
the locating of the attitudes that, by our interpretation, are grounded 
in the feeling for negativity, the "idea of no," a symbolistic genius 
that makes itself felt in a variety of manifestations. Examples of 
such manifestations are sacrifice, mortification, penance, vicarious 
atonement, conversion, rebirth, original sin, submission, humility, 
purgation, in brief, "conscience"; thence secondarily in rejections, 
revolts, impatiences; and so with intermediate realms like indiffer- 


ence, betrayal, psychogenic illness, attempts to resolve social an- 
titheses; and finally in the purely technical realm, as with the 
ability to know that the words for things are not the things, that 
ironic statements are to be interpreted in reverse of their surface 
meaning, and that the range of language can be extended metaphori- 
cally without error only if we know how to "discount" a meta- 
phorical term. 

There is a crucial paradox in the dramatistic approach to religion, 
however. For whereas it leads to an almost minute interest in the 
letter of the faith, requiring a particular stress upon the terms that 
specify doctrine, dogma, its approach to such elements is not doc- 
trinal, but formal. That is, it does not ask: "Is such a doctrine literally 
true or false 1 ?" Rather, it asks, "what are the relationships prevailing 
among the key terms of this doctrine?" And: "Can we adapt the 
terminology to other terminologies, at least somewhat?" For in- 
stance, one might ask whether theological statements about "original 
sin" could fit with a purely secular notion that there is a kind of 
categorical guilt implicit in the nature of all sociopolitical order, 
with the malaise of its "degrees," a malaise sharpened by the feeling 
for negativity, as embodied in the "rights and wrongs" or "yeses and 
noes," of man's linguistically heightened conscientiousness. 

Such a secularly formal (or, if you will, "aesthetic") approach 
to the literal particularities of dogma must be insufficient, as judged 
by the tests of advocates who would proclaim one doctrine and 
no other as the whole and only truth. But though educators, being 
concerned with preparations rather than fulfilments, might for their 
pains be classed among those "trimmers" who after death were 
denied even entrance into hell, since they could not wholly die 
through never having wholly lived, yet as regards the needs of 
education for the "global" conditions that technology is imposing 
upon us, precisely such a deflection seems particularly needed at 
this time. For it would seem to go as far as humanly possible toward 
the forming of such attitudes as are required if men of many dif- 
ferent faiths are to participate in a common parliament of all nations 
and are to confront one another in an attitude better than mere 
armed neutrality, or in a diplomatic silence whereby all sorts of 
very important things are left unsaid. For though any specific meas- 
ure can be debated in such a spirit, a world organization can flourish 

BURKE 299 

"positively" only in so far as all its members can work toward a 
frame of reference common to all. 

It is the thesis of this essay that, since all divergent doctrines must 
necessarily confront one another as doctrinal "idioms," a framework 
for the lot could be provided only by the perfecting of some ter- 
minology for the study of idioms in general. A terminology as so 
conceived must necessarily adopt some point of view in which all 
could share. And a f ormalistic view is such a one, at least in principle. 
We say "in principle," since there are still valid points of disagree- 
ment as to whether a "dramatistic" species of formalism should be 
the kind to opt for. And Professor Benne, in this "dramarism," would 
prefer a "tragic" to a "comic" one, for reasons he has explained in 
his article on "Education for Tragedy." We only contend that a 
generally linguistic approach to the problem would be the proper 
counterpart of the purely pragmatic arrangements for having ad- 
dresses at the United Nations translated into several languages and 
having choices among these translations made quickly available to 
the various delegates, with the help of machines. 

The same considerations apply, of course, to purely "secular re- 
ligions," notably such political philosophies as capitalism or dialecti- 
cal materialism. These, too, are terminologies of action, hence es- 
sentially "dramatistic" in structureand whatever their vast dis- 
agreements, they can at least meet in terms of their nature as ter- 
minologies of action. Admittedly, such an approach is not enough 
to resolve specific issues that lead to blunt, head-on collisions. One 
cannot ask an educational method to do the impossible. But one can 
ask that it provide a positive equivalent for the area of commonalty 
which even opponents must share, if they are to join the same 

Where the various "persuasions" are brought together, what topic 
surely transcends them all but the question of persuasion itself? 
If one particular persuasion among the lot could triumph, then we'll 
concede, however grudgingly, that such a result might be all to the 
good, though at the very least we'd want to suggest: The differences 
among the various areas of the world would soon give rise to new 
local emphases that, to many, would look like outright heresy, 
whereat the squabbles would begin anew. For such are the tempta- 
tions to which the symbol-using species is prone, by reason of the 


nature of symbols. And, for these reasons, at least so far as the 
linguistic approach to educational problems is concerned, we believe 
that, faute de mieux, the nearest man will ever get to a state of 
practical peace among the many persuasions is by theoretical study 
of the forms in all persuasion. 

It is regrettable that the author of the greatest rhetoric wrote his 
tract before the data on the great world persuasions were available 
to him. So, while Aristotle's formal treatment of the subject remains, 
to this day, the greatest of its kind, regrettably he had but com- 
paratively trivial examples of verbal wrestling to analyze (trivial, 
that is, as compared with the symbolic ways of the great world 
religions, both worldly and other-worldly, that took form since his 
time, or since the awarenesses available to him). But the principles 
remain intact; and they are in their very essence dramatistic; and a 
search for the forms of persuasion, as exemplified in later materials, 
might very profitably abide by the suggestions which his treatise 
provides. Nor should we forget that, elsewhere in his own work, he 
supplies the further forms needed for a most ingenious locating of 
the hierarchal motive, the motive grandly essential to the modes of 
submission ("Islam") that characterize the world religions. 

All such persuasive powers, the heights of symbol-using genius 
as embodied in definition, expression, and exhortation, we would 
with fearsomeness appreciate. Such is the dramatistic variant of the 
linguistic approach to education, an approach now often called 


But suppose that all did turn out as we would have it, so far as 
educational programs went? What next? What might be the results? 

First: In seeing beyond the limitations of language, many might 
attain a piety now available to but a few. Many might come closer 
to a true fear of God, through getting more glimpses into the ulti- 
mate reality that stretches somehow beyond the fogs of language 
and its sloganizing. 

Or, on the contrary: There might descend upon mankind a bore- 
dom such as never before cursed symbol-using creatures. For all 
men might come to so distrust the motives of secular ambition, as 
clamorously established by all who help make secular aims "glamor- 

BURKE 301 

ous," that the entire pageantry of empire would seem as unreal as 
a stage set. 

But those are the absolute alternatives: the alternatives of ab- 
solute piety (or "loyalty to the sources of our being"), and of ab- 
solute drought (be it mystic "accidie" or Baudelairean "spleen"). 

But here, in parting, once again we would "settle for less," holding 
out the hope of only this much: That such an approach should 
help some of the rawness to abate, by including a much wider range 
of man's symbolic prowess under the head of the fearsomely ap- 
preciated, and thereby providing less incentives to be overprompt 
at feeling exalted with moral indignation. 

In the educational situation, characteristically, the instructor and 
his class would be on good terms. They would preferably be under 
the sign of goodwill. And is not education ideally an effort to 
maintain such an attitude as thoroughly and extensively as possible 
without loss of one's own integrity? If, where we cannot "love" our 
neighbor's ways, we might at least "fearsomely appreciate" their 
form, and in methods that bring our own ways within the orbit of 
the fearsomely appreciated," would we not then be at least headed 
in the right direction? And is not this direction most urgent, in 
view of the new weapons that threaten not only our chances of 
living well but even our chances of living at all? 


There is a general sense in which any book could figure in a "dramatistic" 
bibliography, since any book is by definition an instance of "symbolic action." 
More narrowly, we should include here works that are built about the featuring 
of some term for "action," ranging all the way from theories of economic or 
commercial "transactions" to theologies that view God as "pure act." Spinoza's 
Ethics is a good example of the type, because of the symmetry with which it 
explicitly works out a balance of actives and passives. 

All writers who have figured in the shift of emphasis from philosophy to the 
critique of language could be listed here, as with the traditional battles over 
"universals" (with nominalists and realists throwing equally important light 
upon the normal resources of language, and upon our language-ridden views 
of extralinguistic "reality"). In this regard, even the most positivistic or "scien- 
tistic" of semantical theories could properly be included in our bibliography. 

And though the empiricist stress of Locke, Berkeley, and Hume would be 
inferior to the scholastic tradition, when judged as philosophy, its admonitions 
as regards a critique of language are nearly perfect for our purposes. Our main 
shift of emphasis would be in the direction of a greater concern with the ways 
in which sociopolitical motives infuse men's views of their so-called "sensory" 
perceptions. Similarly, psychoanalytic and psychosomatic speculations fit well 
with the dramatistic emphasis, because of their great stress upon forms of sym- 


bolic action, though as with empiricism, the overly psychologistic stress usually 
somewhat deflects attention from the sociopolitical realm of motives. 

Specifically, by "dramatism" is meant a linguistic theory expressly built about 
the study of such terms as "action," "passion," and "substance," and designed 
to consider language in the light of the logic, resources, and embarrassments of 
such terms. It would be more likely to stress verbs than nouns as the way-in, 
though for this very reason it finds itself paradoxically quite friendly to Jeremy 
Bentham's search for ideal definition in terms of nouns (with his "theory of 
fictions" designed to take account of the respects in which strongly verb-like 
and negatively tinged nouns would not lend themselves to his materially positive 
ideal). Likewise this approach finds much to its purposes in works as different 
as James Harris's Hermes and the redoubtable Home Tooke's Diversions of 
Purley (with its stress upon the nature of "abbreviations" in language). 

In this specific sense, a systematically self-conscious statement of the drama- 
tistic perspective is offered in A Grammar of Motives and A Rhetoric of Motives, 
by Kenneth Burke (Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1945 and 1950, respectively). The Gram- 
mar considers the logic of "substance" in general, the Rhetoric considers its 
place in personal and social "identifications." Also, both books offer many ex- 
amples of the way in which works by other writers can be interpreted as im- 
plicit contributions to the dramatistic perspective. 

As regards the ethical dimension in language, see particularly "A Dramatistic 
View of the Origins of Language" (Quarterly Journal of Speech, October and 
December, 1952, February, 1953) and "Postscripts on the Negative" (same publi- 
cation, April, 1953). 

A work now in preparation, A Symbolic of Motives, will deal with poetics 
and the technique of "indexing" literary works. Meanwhile, among articles by 
the present author already published on this subject are: "The Vegetal Radical- 
ism of Theodore Roethke" (Sewanee Review, Winter, 1950); "Three Defini- 
tions" (Kenyan Review, Spring, 1951); "Othello: An Essay to Illustrate a 
Method" (Hudson Review, Summer, 1951); "Form and Persecution in the 
Oresteia" (Sewanee Review, Summer, 1952); "Imitation" (Accent, Autumn, 
1952); "Comments on Eighteen Poems by Howard Nemerov" (Sewanee Re- 
view, Winter, 1952); "Ethan Brand: A Preparatory Investigation" (Hopkins 
Review, Winter, 1952); "Mysticism as a Solution to the Poet's Dilemma," in 
collaboration with Stanley Romaine Hopper (Spiritual Problems in Contempo- 
rary Literature, edited by Stanley Romaine Hopper, published by Institute for 
Religious and Social Studies, distributed by Harper & Bros., 1952); "Fact, In- 
ference, and Proof in the Analysis of Literary Symbolism," (paper presented at 
Thirteenth Conference on Science, Philosophy, and Religion, and published in 
a volume distributed by Harper & Bros., 1954). 

The author's first book of literary criticism, Counter-Statement (originally 
published, 1931; republished with new Preface and Epilogue, 1953, by Hermes 
Publications, Los Altos, California) is relevant to these inquiries because it 
treats of literary form in terms of audience appeal. His Permanence and 
Change: An Analysis of Purpose (originally published, 1935, revised edition 
published, May, 1954, Hermes Publications), centers about problems of inter- 
pretation, communication, and "new meanings," though the perspective is there 
called not "dramatic," but "poetic." An out-of-print work, Attitudes toward 
History (New Republic, 1937) deals largely with problems of bureaucracy 
(now often called "organizational behavior"). Another out-of-print work, The 
Philosophy of Literary Form (Louisiana State University Press, 1941) con- 
siders many problems of "indexing," and outlines the theories of "symbolic 
action" that lie behind such analysis. 

Miscellaneous items: Nous Autres Materialistes (Esprit, November, 1946), 



analyzing the motives in the "higher standard of living"; "Rhetoric Old and 
New" (Journal of General Education, April 1951); "Ideology and Myth" 
(Accent, Summer, 1947); "Thanatopsis for Critics: A Brief Thesaurus of 
Deaths and Dyings" (Essays in Criticism, October, 1952), a study of motives 
involved in the imagery of death; "Freedom and Authority in the Realm of 
the Poetic Imagination" (Freedom and Authority in Our Time, Twelfth Sym- 
posium of the Conference on Science, Philosophy and Religion, edited by 
Lyman Bryson, Louis Finkelstein, R. M. Maclvcr, Richard P. McKeon, dis- 
tributed by Harper & Bros., 1953). In a symposium on "The New Criticism" 
(American Scholar, Winter, Spring, 1951), Burke at several points discusses 
what he means by the "socioanagogic" approach to literary forms. 

For an authoritative summary of the "dramatistic" position, see "Kenneth 
Burke and the 'New Rhetoric'" (Marie Hochmuth, Quarterly Journal of 
Speech, April, 1952). 

Kenneth D. Benne's article, "Education for Tragedy" (Educational Theory, 
November and December, 1951) while agreeing with Burke's general emphasis, 
offers grounds for a "tragic" species of such, in contrast with Burke's "comic" 
view. See also Kenneth D. Benne's essay-review, "Toward a Grammar of Edu- 
cational Motives" (Educational Forum, January, 1947) for his evaluation of 
Burke's Grammar of Motives, from the standpoint of educators who arrived 
at the dramatist position by a somewhat different route. And see also, in this 
regard: The Improvement of Practical Intelligence: The Central Task of Edu- 
cation, by R. Bruce Raup, George E. Axtelle, Kenneth D. Benne, B. Othanel 
Smith (Harper & Bros., 1950). 

While concerned with the sociology of literature in ways that only partly 
coincide with Burke's emphasis, Hugh Dalzicl Duncan's Language and Litera- 
ture in Society (University of Chicago Press, 1953) offers a thorough analysis 
of ways whereby the dramatistic perspective can be applied to problems of 
sociology. Donald E. Hayden's After Conflict, Quiet; A Study of Words- 
worth's Poetry in Relation to His Life and Letters (Exposition Press, New 
York, 1951) is constructed in accordance with a dialectic pattern quite relevant 
to the dramatistic view of symbolic unfoldings. And among those many ex- 
cellent volumes in the International Encyclopedia of Unified Science, particular 
attention should be called to "The Development of Rationalism and Empiri- 
cism" by George De Santillana and Edgar Zilsel (University of Chicago Press, 

I94 1 ). 

Works such as Francis Fergusson's The Idea of the Theater (Princeton Uni- 
versity Press, 1949) and Herbert Weisinger's Tragedy and the Paradox of the 
Fortunate Fall (Michigan State College Press, 1953) almost inevitably fall within 
the "dramatist" orbit, because of their great stress upon dramatic forms. Fer- 
gusson's more recent book, Dante's Drama of the Mind (Princeton, New Jersey: 
Princeton University Press, 1953), is strongly dramatistic in its treatment of the 
Purgatorio; and it is particularly relevant to our purposes if, as we read it, we 
see it as implicitly concerned with the "hierarchal psychosis." 


Aims of Education for Our Age of Science: 
Reflections of a Logical Empiricist* 



Logical empiricism (alias: "logical positivism," "scientific em- 
piricism," "unity of science movement") is not a system of phi- 
losophy in the traditional sense. In its more ambitious or perhaps 
presumptuous phases, logical empiricism presented itself as the 
philosophy to end all philosophies. No matter whether or not this 
extravagant claim is justifiable, it is true that logical empiricists have 
neither pursued the search for absolutes nor attempted to provide a 
well rounded 'Weltanschauung (world view and life view). Their 
major contribution has been the development of methods for the 
clarification of basic concepts, assumptions, and procedures in the 
fields of knowledge and valuation. Consequently, lest false expecta- 
tions be aroused, it must be stressed at the outset that, strictly speak- 
ing, there are no direct implications for education in the outlook of 
logical empiricism. The understanding with which the present 
assignment was undertaken, was therefore this: While there is no 
distinctly logical empiricist philosophy of education, there are im- 
portant educational aspects in the scientific humanism which, as a 
general and fundamental attitude, underlies the thinking of the logi- 
cal empiricists. To articulate and to illuminate those educational 
aspects is the purpose of this essay. 

Since logical empiricism is essentially a methodology, its educa- 
tional consequences can be derived only indirectly and in either of 
two ways: First, as just suggested, there are the basic evaluations 
that underlie the outlook of scientific empiricism. These can be 
made explicit and discussed critically. In this manner certain aims 

* Educational Consultant: Professor Robert H. Beck, University of Minnesota. 


F E I G L 305 

and ideals of education can be formulated and scrutinized. Secondly, 
the ways and means of education could be appraised if the requisite 
knowledge regarding means-ends relations is sufficiently well es- 
tablished in the light of the criteria of validity which indeed are a 
major subject of the analyses with which logical empiricists have 
been so deeply concerned. The educational applications are thus 
twice removed from the primary concerns of the work of logical 
empiricism: The analyses pursued by this movement in contempora- 
ry philosophy have resulted in a logic and methodology of the 

Inasmuch as any responsible educational policy must draw upon 
the knowledge provided by the sciencesespecially, of course, psy- 
chology and the social sciences education, very much like the 
technologies or medicine is essentially applied science. Education 
presupposes the pure sciences in the same sense in which the activi- 
ties of agriculture presuppose biological and chemical knowledge, 
and the endeavors of the politician, social worker, or social reformer 
presuppose sociological knowledge. But pure knowledge, i.e., knowl- 
edge regarding what happens (or what is likely to happen) under 
what conditions, while of paramount importance, is in and by itself 
not sufficient to lend direction to the various activities which apply 
such knowledge in human affairs. Physiological or biochemical 
knowledge, for example, could be used (and has been used oc- 
casionally) to produce illness or death, rather than improved health 
which of course is the more usual aim of medical practice. 

In addition to knowledge there are thus presupposed ends, aims, 
purposes, valuations, and preferences which make up the very frame 
of the enterprise of applying knowledge. The distinction here drawn 
between knowledge and valuation is itself one of the main results 
of logical empiricist reflections. It was clearly stated as early as in 
David Hume's philosophy in the eighteenth century and has been 
successively reformulated and refined by many empiricist phi- 
losophers ever since, especially in our century. In what follows, 
primary attention will be given to the educational ideals as they 
appear in the light of the logical empiricists' basic values; and only 
secondarily shall we deal with questions of educational technique 
as they may be appraised on the basis of modern psychology and 
social science. 


Some of the Main Principles of Logical Empiricism 

Before turning to a discussion of educational ideals, a brief out- 
line of some of the major tenets of the logical empiricist outlook is 
requisite. The main original achievements of the movement are to 
be found in its contributions to the philosophy of language and in 
the logic of the sciences. Many of these contributions are of a highly 
technical character and require for their understanding and appraisal 
a good background in mathematics, mathematical logic, semantics, 
and the methodology of the natural and the social sciences. For- 
tunately, our present purpose calls only for a presentation of the 
fundamental philosophical position. 1 

Logical empiricism has often been hailed as the twentieth-century 
sequel to the philosophy of eighteenth-century enlightenment. Just 
as the renaissance of science in the seventeenth century engendered 
the empiricist and naturalistic philosophies of the eighteenth century, 
so the radical transformations of the scientific outlook at the begin- 
ning of our century produced a turning point in philosophy. Owing 
to cultural lag, the prevalent philosophies in each of these periods 
remained still largely in the bondage of traditional theological and 
metaphysical systems. Emancipation arose from the need to shape 
a philosophical outlook that would be more consistent, not only with 
the results of science, but especially with the spirit of modern scien- 
tific method. It has been stated and repeatedperhaps ad nauseam 
that ours is an age of science and that mankind has not grown up 
morally and socially, and not even intellectually, to be sufficiently 
well adjusted to the tremendous changes that have been wrought by 
modern science. These changes concern not only the view of the uni- 
verse but also the practical conditions of life which resulted from the 
applications of science in every field of human activity. It has be- 
come imperative to abandon the dogmatic, other-worldly, super- 
naturalistic, tender-minded, rationalistic, parochial preconceptions 
and to replace them by critical, worldly, naturalistic, fact-minded, 
empirical, experimental, and universally applicable ways of thinking. 

On the intellectual-cognitive side there arose an ideal of "mature 
thinking" which reflects the major virtues of the scientific capacity 

i. For more detailed information on the historical roots, the systematic con- 
tributions and comparisons with related movements in present and recent phi- 
losophy, see the appended bibliography (especially: 5, 6, 9, 10, u, and 15). 

F E I G L 307 

for self-correction, clarity, consistency, definiteness, and precision, as 
well as for adequacy, reliability, objectivity, and fruitfulness. Per- 
haps more than any other school of thought, the logical empiricists 
have made it their business to analyze in great detail and with impres- 
sive systematic power the norms and standards that characterize 
scientifically enlightened reasoning. The scope of the present essay 
permits only a very sketchy summary of the conclusions of the 
analytical work of logical empiricism. 2 


A useful and suggestive initial appraisal of the human equipment 
for mature thinking can be readily obtained from a biopsychological 
survey, more especially from developmental and comparative psy- 
chology. Comparing animals and man, the most striking differences 
lie in the much greater role of instincts and simple learning processes 
in animals and in the long, elaborate, complex learning phenomena, 
supplemented significantly by a much higher level of ingenuity and 
of symbolic behavior (language) in human beings. In the human 
case, the relatively poor instinctual equipment becomes immediately 
overlaid and increasingly modified by the acquisition of habits of 
expectation and action through learning and imitation. From an 
early age ingenuity, i.e., the ability to combine elements into new 
complexes and configurations for the overcoming of difficulties and 
the solution of problems, distinguishes homo fa her (the tool-using 
man) from the animals with the possible exception of the anthro- 
poid apes. But the most profound difference between human and 
subhuman organisms consists in the exclusively human possession of 

Human language differs from animal communication in that it 
is characterized by syntactical, semantical, and pragmatic rules. Cor- 
responding to these rules on the behavioral level are the habits of 
the use of linguistic symbols. These habits are, of course, developed 

2. Space does not permit anything like a fully argued justification of the fol- 
lowing presentation. The reader is asked to bear with the dogmatic tone which 
is merely the result of extreme condensation. Consultation of the following 
books and articles listed among the references at the end of the chapter will 
help in obtaining a more complete view of the matter: 2, 4-6, 8-u, 13-16, 19, 
and 21. 


by training in the process of education. Animal communication, with 
the possible exception of the social insects, does not seem to possess 
a semantical (let alone syntactical) structure and thus consists almost 
exclusively of the functions of expression and appeal (evocation). 
On the human level all three functions of language (representation, 
expression, and appeal) are present and assume highly refined and 
complex forms, as in science or poetry. The development of sci- 
entific knowledge may well be considered as a further stage in the 
evolution of man homo sapiens now, the talking animal. The ac- 
cumulation of a body of testable, reliable, precise, coherent, and 
comprehensive knowledge establishes, indeed, a level of adaptation 
that is higher than that of primitive man with his poorly tested and 
unorganized knowledge, shot through with superstition. 

Finally, perhaps even a step above scientific knowledge, there is 
the human capacity for critical reflection: the ability to examine the 
presuppositions of our activities, and in the light of such critical 
examinations to make explicit what is so often unquestioningly taken 
for granted, and thus to be able to eliminate prejudice and to revamp 
the very frame of our thinking and doing. This is one of the most 
powerful endowments; but perhaps it is also one of our most neg- 
lected resources. Reform activities of all sorts be they concerned 
with the individual as in psychotherapy or in education, or with the 
group, as in social, political, or economic reformare based upon 
critical reflection in the sense defined. Philosophy, as conceived by 
the logical empiricists (but in very much the same manner already 
by Socrates), is essentially critical reflection inasmuch as it attempts 
to explicate and to examine first principles. 

Human intelligence, as we have tried to indicate, is not a single 
faculty or capacity but a many-storied structure of abilities which 
evolution brought forth and thus produced the paradox of modern 
man splendidly equipped for the struggle of existence, and yet de- 
plorably inept in the use of this equipment for his own benefit. It 
is true, along with science, man also developed conscience. And, 
along with conscience, he frequently produced appeasing but spu- 
rious rationalizations, self-deceptions, consolations, and a whole as- 
sortment of neurotic (if not psychotic) escapes from reality. The 
ideal of individual and social integration toward a deeply satisfying 
life has more often been preached than practiced. It will require 

FEIGL 309 

strenuous and vigilant efforts on all the fronts of reform, and espe- 
cially on the educational front, to help mankind grow up toward 
the sort of maturity our present world requires for greater sanity 
and happiness, if not even for its continued existence. But more of 
this later. 

There are certain basic philosophical lessons that can be gleaned 
from a study of the factors and levels of intelligence. No matter 
how the present controversies in the psychological theories of learn- 
ing may ultimately be settled, there are some conclusions which are 
fairly firmly established: Patterns of expectation and of action de- 
velop through the responses of the organism to repeated stimuli (or 
stimuli-configurations), and through trial and error (fumble and 
success), i.e., under conditions of positive or negative reihforcement. 
These reinforcements consist in the satisfaction (or frustration) 
either of basic biological needs (like hunger or sex) or of the va- 
rieties of secondary and tertiary needs (interests) as they are typical 
of the human cultural level (needs for security, recognition, love, 
equity, new experience, pure knowledge, or aesthetic gratification). 

From the trial-and-error aspect of learning we derive the philo- 
sophical lesson that learning is most effective if we avoid the ex- 
tremes of both the complete rigidity of dogmatism and the utter 
fluidity of skepticism. Only the golden mean of the critical attitude 
will, in the long run, produce the best adaptations. The dogmatic 
mind, if ever it was open at all, may have swallowed some "truth" 
at one time and remained shut tightly ever after. The mind of the 
extreme skeptic, floundering in perpetual doubt, is, so to speak, open 
at both ends everything flows through it, and nothing sticks. A 
certain persistence is indispensable in the search for truth. How else 
could one find out even that one was wrong in one's expectations or 
assumptions? The critical attitude cautiously works with the truths 
that are sufficiently confirmed by the testimony of experience and 
calls into serious doubt only those which are poorly confirmed. But 
even the best established generalizations are held valid only "until 
further notice"; they are kept open for revision in principle, no 
matter how firmly we may rely upon them until such revision is 
forced upon us. 

This is the essence of the empirical, experimental attitude. In this 
point there is, I think, full agreement among all empiricists be their 


historical inspiration biology (as in the case of John Dewey's prag- 
matism) or be it the logic of science (as with the logical empiricists). 
I remember Einstein in one of his early public lectures saying about 
his theory of relativity that it would become "dust and ashes" if 
certain astronomical verifications were not forthcoming. This is the 
spirit of modern science, but alas not of modern thought in general. 
It is true, we laugh contemptuously about the (probably apocryphal) 
dictum of Hegel's: "If the facts don't agree with my theories, so 
much the worse for the facts." But would not a little soul searching 
reveal how guilty most of us are in this same respect usually without 
being aware of it (we trust!)? 


The attainment of mature thinking has been characterized as the 
result of a progressive development through several phases. Auguste 
Comte, the originator of positivist philosophy (as well as of the sci- 
ence of sociology) more than a hundred years ago, taught that the 
intellectual development of man begins with a theological phase, 
passes through a metaphysical phase, and finally culminates in the 
"positive" or scientific phase. In the light of more recent historical 
and cultural-anthropological research, this scheme appears as a gross 
oversimplification. Magical, animistic, and mythological ways of 
thinking cannot without severe distortion be subsumed under the 
theological phase. Moreover, the succession of the phases in various 
civilizations (and especially in the development of individuals from 
infancy to maturity) varies, of course, considerably. Nevertheless, 
if not from a historical and psychological-genetic point of view, 
then certainly from the philosophical perspective, it is still useful to 
compare the characteristic features of those diverse prescientific 
ways of thinking with those of scientific thinking. 

Scientific thinking, at least where it is at its best critical level, is 
distinguished by the virtues of intersubjective (objective) testability; 
of a high degree of reliability, of definiteness (or precision), of 
coherence (or systematic structure); and of comprehensiveness (or 
scope). Each of the prescientific ways of thinking lacks one or the 
other of these characteristics which are essential, or at least highly 
desirable for the attainment of the goals of knowledge: adequate 

FEIGL 311 

descriptions, explanations, and predictions of the facts of experience. 
Magical thinking while in principle capable of objective test fails 
miserably when the test is applied. It lacks reliability (to put it 
mildly!). This is the case of the countless superstitions of mankind 
be they occasional and sporadic (as in everyday life) or worked 
into systems like alchemy or phrenology (of old), or like astrology, 
quack medicine, and other assorted pseudosciences (old or new). 

Sharply to be distinguished from magical thinking (conceived 
here as in principle subject to objective confirmation or disconfirma- 
tion) is the animistic way of thinking which proposes explanations 
of observable natural phenomena in terms of in-principle-uncon- 
firmable entelechies, spirits, demons, souls, ghosts, and the like. 
Thriving upon seductive analogies and anthropomorphic metaphors 
(the personification of things), pseudoexplanations are offered which 
may be poetically appealing but which remain scientifically empty. 
This is so, however, only where disconfirmation is excluded de- 
liberately by making the introduced animistic hypotheses proof 
against disproof. Wherever testability is not in principle ruled out, 
the assertions in question may be regarded as hypotheses and thus 
appraised in accordance with the usual norms of scientific reasoning 
(inductive probability, parsimony, etc.). 

Most empiricists look with great suspicion upon the hypotheses 
of vitalism in biology, of mind-body dualism, of psychical research, 
and of so-called "empirical theologies" which base their arguments 
on the observable facts of the world. They are inclined to reject 
hypotheses of this type, not necessarily as meaningless, but as super- 
fluous in that it is likely that the observable facts in question can 
be more simply explained in terms of physical, biological and psy- 
chological principles i.e., within the frame of the usual "naturalistic" 
account of the world. A truly open-minded empiricist, however, 
will cheerfully admit that the term "naturalistic" does not have a 
precisely delimited meaning, unless it be understood as synonymous 
with "empirical." But in this case there is no way of knowing a 
priori what sort of concepts and hypotheses may yet be required 
for the explanation and prediction of observable fact. 

The concepts of electromagnetics, for example, were introduced 
in addition to the then customary concepts of mechanics in nine- 
teenth-century physics; and this led to an expanded conception of 


"nature" and to a more comprehensive type of "naturalistic" ex- 
planation. It is quite conceivable that this sort of expansion may 
become necessary again and again. Naturalism is, therefore, a tenable 
philosophy only to the extent that it coincides with an open-minded, 
yet cautious, empiricism. Naturalism in this sense is essentially dif- 
ferent from materialism which in its reductive zeal (as in the 
"thingification of persons," if the phrase be permitted) has often 
attempted prematurely to close the world picture by admitting only 
a certain type (traditionally the mechanistic type) of scientific ex- 

Nevertheless, animistic, theological, and metaphysical assertions 
are often so conceived that they are immune against tests of any 
sort, and thus become a matter of "pure faith." In that case they 
must be considered as nonscientific (or, as the logical empiricists 
generally would claim, noncognitive), even if they operate with 
(verbally) sharply defined concepts, display a rigorous logical 
structure, and (claim to) offer comprehensive explanations of all 
there is. These virtues of definiteness (precision), coherence, and 
comprehensiveness amount to naught as far as nature-explanation 
is concerned, if the premises of theological or metaphysical expla- 
nation are so formulated as to render any sort of even partial or in- 
direct test impossible. It has happened that even in the history of 
scientific thought, hypotheses were framed which were ingeniously 
(but unwittingly) protected against disconfirmation. Typical ex- 
amples are: the doctrines of absolute space and time; the phlogiston, 
caloric, and ether hypotheses in their more desperate last-ditch 
stands; the vitalistic doctrines assuming some special nonphysical life 
forces or telefinalities for the explanation of the admittedly marvelous 
features of organic life; etc. The progress of science in many fields 
often depended upon a preliminary purging by which untestable 
ideas were removed and replaced by concepts properly connected 
with actual or possible evidence. 

Educationally, and with regard to the ideal of mature thinking, it 
is worth noting that under conditions of extreme tension, frustra- 
tion, or distress there occur frequently regressions from the scien- 
tific to prescientific patterns of belief. Hitler employed astrologers 
to advise him in his strategic issues (this is a magical thinking). 
King Xerxes of old had his slaves whip the Aegean Sea with iron 

FEIGL 313 

chains in punishment for its unruly behavior it had thrown up big 
waves preventing Xerxes' ships from crossing it (animistic thinking). 
The explanation and the treatment of mental diseases in terms of 
a theory of "possession by evil spirits" is another example of the 
less-recent past. Quite generally, the "failure of nerve" and the re- 
turn to orthodoxy of one sort or another may be viewed as a re- 
gression to less-mature forms of thought and behavior. 

While purely intellectual analysis alone will not suffice to prevent 
regressions of this sort, the value of the clarifications offered by 
modern methods of analysis and enlightenment should not be under- 
estimated. We now turn to a more systematic presentation of the 
implements of logical-empiricist enlightenment. 

The essentials of the critique of prescientific thinking can be 
brought out even more succinctly by a little exercise in the seman- 
tics of the word "belief." This important term of our language is 
deplorably ambiguous. If serious confusions are to be avoided, 
three different meanings must be distinguished. There is, first, the 
meaning of "belief which may be characterized as empirical because 
it is at least in principle capable of being examined as to its truth or 
falsity in the light of observational evidence. Many of the knowl- 
edge-chains of common sense as well as the generalizations and 
hypotheses of responsible science belong in this category. Wherever 
the facts of direct observation can lend credibility (or incredibility), 
i.e., probability or evidential support of any degree to assertions 
(no matter how close or remote they may be relative to the evi- 
dence), we deal with belief of the empirical sort. But if belief (as 
"pure faith") is so conceived that it is compatible with no matter 
what facts of observation, then this is belief of the transcendent- 
metaphysical sort. This kind of belief cannot be probabilified by any 
evidence whatsoever. There is no difference (except in purely verbal 
or pictorial, emotional, morivative aspects) that makes a difference 
between the assertion and the denial of such beliefs. It is in this 
point that they differ sharply from beliefs of the empirical sort. 

There are, finally, uses of the word "belief" which are clearly de- 
signed not for making a knowledge-claim but for the expression of 
an attitude. "Belief" in equal rights for all or in the dignity of man 


is (usually) the expression of a commitment to an ideal or to a 
"cause." From the point of view of logical empiricism the effective 
component of "beliefs" in the second sense reduces to "belief in 
the third sense. That is to say that beliefs which are made safe 
against disproof have, at best, emotional-motivative significance but 
no factual meaning-content in the sense in which assertions of matter 
of fact contain truth-claims. Obviously, some care and subtlety is 
required in the disentanglement of the meaning (s) of given utter- 
ances. For example, the sentence, "I believe in democracy" may con- 
vey the solemn commitment of the speaker to the cause of a govern- 
ment of, by, and for the people; it may also represent an autobio- 
graphical description (cognitively true, if sincere; false, if hypo- 
critical) of the speaker's attitude; or it may be an elliptical state- 
ment of the equally factual meaning: democracy is the most equi- 
table form of government for all concerned. Only through Socratic 
questioning or self-questioning can it be determined which meaning 
is at stake in a given context. 

The lesson exemplified in the case of the word "belief" can be 
generalized and made into a more comprehensive account of the 
functions of language and the meanings of "meaning." It is very 
illuminating to distinguish first of all between the cognitive and 
the noncognitive types of significance. Language when used cog- 
nitively (i.e., in behalf of knowledge-claims) may be said to function 
representatively. But language is also expression in that it reflects 
the feelings and attitudes of the communicator; and it is appeal (or 
evocation) in that it is designed to influence the communicatee. This 
influence may result in immediate action or else in a change of 
attitude on the part of the communicatee. Most uses of language in- 
volve all three factors: representation, expression, and appeal. Prac- 
tically and psychologically these functions are so intimately inter- 
woven, that only an analytic effort can separate out the components 
which, from a logical and philosophical point of view, must be 
carefully distinguished if clarity of thought is at all to be achieved. 

The expression and appeal functions of language are, of course, 
very closely related and may be subsumed under "noncognitive" or 
"emotive" meanings. These may usefully be subdivided into pic- 
torial, emotional, and motivative types of significance. By means 
of pictorial appeals images are evoked; emotional appeals evoke feel- 

FEIGL 315 

ings and sentiments; motivative (directive, dynamic, pragmatic) ap- 
peals effect or affect action, mold dispositions and are thus of the 
greatest significance in all practical affairs in which persuasion, 
propaganda, indoctrination, suggestions, requests, imperatives, or 
commands play a prominent role. Especially worth noting is the 
almost ubiquitous technique of persuasive definitions by means of 
which words (like "liberty," "slavery," "the good society," "prog- 
ress," "regress," "maturity," etc.) which possess strong positive or 
negative appeals may be given various factual meanings whereby 
(often unwittingly, if not surreptitiously) very striking feats of 
directing or redirecting attitudes may be achieved. 3 Training in the 
quick recognition of the devices of persuasion, and of their dif- 
ferences from whatever (if any) informational content that may be 
combined with them, is, of course, of the utmost importance in our 
age of constant and incessant mass propaganda. 

Perhaps the most essential but also the most resented and disputed 
principle of logical empiricism is its criterion of factual meaningful- 
ness. As already suggested in the discussion of the meanings of "be- 
lief," a sentence is meaningful in the sense of conveying informa- 
tion (true or false) regarding matters of fact if, and only if, it is 
in principle capable of at least partial and /or indirect confirmation 
(or disconfirmation) by means of some data of observation. Sen- 
tences which do not have factual meaning may be significant in 
other ways i.e., in carrying emotive appeals, or in having a formal 
(syntactical) structure which renders them necessarily true or 
necessarily false. 

Purely logical truths, such as those of the law of identity or of 
noncontradiction are indeed as devoid of factual content as are 
self-contradictions. Inasmuch as the truths of arithmetic may be 
reduced to the truths of logic, they too are tautological in charac- 
ter, do not provide information about the world of facts precisely 
because they hold by virtue of stipulations and definitions which no 
amount of experience could force us to abandon or modify. Quite 
to the contrary, one might say that no matter what the facts of ex- 
perience are, logic and arithmetic will be needed to describe them 
consistently precisely because the rules of logic and mathematics 
are nothing but rules to which any language must conform if it is 

3. Cf. Charles L. Stevenson (21) pp. 210 ff. 


to describe facts without contradiction. 

Returning to the meaning criterion, it should be noted that this is 
not to be interpreted as a proposition but rather as a proposal, a 
stipulation designed to prevent intellectual perplexities and self-de- 
ceptions. The formula which states the meaning criterion thus does 
not fall under its own scrutiny. The justification for its adoption 
consists simply in the realization that language used and understood 
in conformity with the criterion will not lead us into certain sorts 
of confusion and will not permit the asking of in-principle-unanswer- 
able questions. Two very simple examples must suffice here to il- 
lustrate the point. It has been maintained that if two bodies move 
relatively to one another, at least one of these bodies must have 
absolute motion. Absolute motion is here understood as motion with 
respect to an absolutely unobservable "absolute" space. It is easily 
seen that if such an absolute space, contrary to the supposition, 
were in some sense empirically identifiable, it would indeed be a 
true (and even logically necessary) proposition that at least one 
of the two bodies moves relative to absolute space. 

This is merely a tautological consequence of the definition of 
motion relative to a chosen frame of reference. But given the meta- 
physical conception of absolute space, it would be (logically) im- 
possible to decide which of the two bodies is "really" moving. 
According to our supposition, the absolute frame of reference is 
strictly undetectable, and the question, therefore, forever unanswer- 
able. Another example: Assume there is transmigration of souls such 
that, when one person dies, his soul emerges in a newborn child. As- 
sume further that no memories or influences of any sort are carried 
over from one existence into the next; that no conceivable test 
could decide whose soul inhabits which new body. There is then 
no difference in the in-principle-observable facts which would cor- 
respond to any of the (verbal, emotive) differences in the assump- 
tions. The proper criticisms of doctrines whose truth cannot pos- 
sibly be distinguished by any test from their falsity must then be 
that the presence of factual meaning was an illusion engendered by 
mistaking purely emotive or purely formal significance for factual 

Even more generally, logical empiricism, along with other schools 
of thought in present-day analytic philosophy, exposes as gratuitous 

FEIGL 317 

perplexities or pseudoproblems questions which rest on confusions 
of meaning. Instead of attempting to answer such questions, the ques- 
tions themselves are subjected to a searching scrutiny of meaning. 
In the process one may often encounter some related or vaguely 
adumbrated questions which are perfectly meaningful but possibly 
very difficult to answer. Here it is wise to proceed cautiously and 
conservatively. We certainly must not cavalierly repudiate as mean- 
ingless questions for which we have at the moment no technique of 
decision, but where the discovery of such a technique or of relevant 
data is not logically excluded by the manner in which the question 
is proposed. There are countless unanswered questions in science 
and many of them may remain unanswered for all we know, man- 
kind may not exist long enough to work out an answer. But a ques- 
tion which is so construed that it prevents any responsible answer 
whatsoever should be regarded as a pseudoproblem. 


The clarifying power of the analysis of language and meaning 
(sketched in the preceding section) may be illustrated by applica- 
tions to some of the perennial issues of philosophy issues that con- 
tinue (curiously enough) to be the concern also of educational phi- 
losophers. Is what we call "the real world" something that exists 
independently of being perceived or conceived? Or is reality merely 
a logical construction based on the data of direct experience? In 
one form or another this issue has exerted an almost morbid fascina- 
tion upon the philosophical mind throughout the ages. Educational 
philosophies have been made to depend on the various answers- 
realistic, idealistic, pragmatist, etc that one may give to the puzzling 
question. If reality exists independently and is knowable at least in 
some of its aspects, then it is held classical education is right in its 
essentialism, because there is a body of knowledge accumulated 
in the development of science which concerns reality and whose 
transmission is achieved by teaching and learning from generation to 

Opposing this view are the pragmatists, experimentalists, or in- 
strumentalists who do not acknowledge any fixed reality as the 
object of knowledge, and who claim that all knowing and learning is 
basically in the nature of problem-solving. It seems to me, to begin 


with, somewhat incongruous, if not ridiculous, to attempt a justifica- 
tion of educational techniques ("learning by doing" vs. "learning 
by absorption of established information") by reference to phil- 
osophical convictions which are so remote from the practical con- 
siderations which alone could have relevance for the educational 
issue. Be that as it may, educational philosophers may be interested in 
the analysis which logical empiricists have given of the problem of 
reality. To make a very long story very short, it may be said that 
there is an empirical, cognitively meaningful concept of reality, used 
in common life and merely refined in science. Whether we say, 
"There are matches in this box," or "There are bacteria in this 
glass of milk," or "There are electrons in this copper wire," or 
"There is a magnetic field in this region of space," or "There is an 
unconscious wish in X's mind" in all these examples we assert 
the existence of something (of things, states, conditions) in the 
spatio-temporal-causal network. Since the data of observations 
themselves are located within this same network, it is possible to 
anchor the meaning even of highly inferential hypotheses empirical- 
ly by connecting them logically with these data. To ask for more 
than this would be extravagant. 

Practically all our knowledge transcends (in this entirely unmeta- 
physical and unobjectionable manner) the data of direct experi- 
ence. If we were to insist on the principle that underlies subjective 
idealism or radical phenomenalism, and stick to it consistently, 
the scope of knowledge would be restricted to the experiential data 
of the present moment a doctrine labelled "instantaneous solipsism" 
and not seriously held by any philosopher. Statements regarding 
the past, the future, the world of physical objects, the mental states 
of other persons, the unobservables of modern physics, etc., are 
all perfectly meaningful, precisely because they are capable of at 
least indirect and incomplete confirmation or disconfirmation. If 
there are any statements which are completely and directly verifi- 
able they concern my experience at this moment. 

The wish to have this sort of direct access to what, by its very 
conception, is outside the scope of the immediate data is chimerical, 
not because we are somehow "walled in" by the limits of our ex- 
perience, but simply because it would be self-contradictory, e.g., 
to assume that we could be simultaneously both "here" and "there," 

FE1GL 319 

"now" and "then," "I" and "thou," etc. The perplexities of the 
reality problem are thus (largely) due to a confusion of the con- 
cept of empirical existence with the notion of the directly given. 
Knowledge must indeed be based on the data of observation; these 
data are the testing ground of all our factual assertions be they 
descriptions, laws, existential hypotheses, or theoretical assumptions. 
But this evidential basis of knowledge claims is (practically) never 
identical with their cognitive reference. The evidential data of the 
historian are clearly in the present (or future), but his statements 
concern the past which is irrecoverably inaccessible to direct ob- 
servation. The astrophysicist's data may consist in the spectra he 
observes on photographs obtained through telescopes and spectro- 
scopes in his terrestrial observatory but his knowledge claims may 
refer to the physical and chemical constitution of stars millions of 
light years away from him. 

The empirical realism here suggested combines the justifiable 
claims of the empiricist criteria of meaning and validity with the 
sound elements of common sense and scientific realism: The only 
meaningful way in which we can talk about reality is in terms of 
what it is knowable as the conceptual structure which is anchored 
in experience and designed to reflect whatever facts and regularities 
are confirmed and confirmable by experience. But this conceptual 
structure, if it is to do justice to the most pervasive features of ex- 
perience, must be "realistic" in the sense that the knowing subjects 
are themselves represented in it as parts of the same world which 
is the object of knowledge. Small parts of physical space and late 
arrivals in evolutionary time, this is the place of homo sapiens in the 
universe. An adequate theory of knowledge must reconstruct the 
relations of the knower to the known in such a manner that these 
obvious naturalistic conclusions are not distorted. 

This outlook enables the logical empiricists also to propose a 
solution of the mind-body problem, a puzzle which has caused so 
much dispute and so many perplexities, especially in modern phi- 
losophy. Very briefly again, such a solution based on a sound 
realistic epistemology and compatible with the general results of 
current psychophysiology, amounts to a double-language theory 
of the mental and the physical. What we designate by mentalistic, 
subjective or introspective terms as states or acts of mind is em- 


pirically identical with what the neurophysiologist designates as 
brain processes in his language. The apparent plausibility of alter- 
native views especially of interactionistic-dualistic doctrines con- 
cerning mind and body, is due (partly) to the striking contrasts in 
pictorial appeals of the mentalistic and the physical language. Once 
it is realized that emotive appeals quite generally are irrelevant as 
regards the cognitive content of scientific statements, the identity of 
the factual reference of the two languages will appear no longer 

What follows from all this for the educational issues of learning 
and teaching? I am inclined to say: nothing that reasonable people 
have not known all along without the benefit of any systematic 
philosophy. Since the only meaningful way of talking about the 
objects of knowledge is in terms of what we can possibly know 
about them, our attention must concentrate on both the 'ways and 
the results of knowing. To stress method at the expense of content 
must educationally be as foolish as to concentrate on content and 
to neglect method. There is a tremendous body of well-ascertained 
knowledge in a variety of fields. The growing child, the adolescent, 
and also the adult, constantly require information for the immediate 
practical purposes of their existence as well as for that broadening 
of their experience which is of the essence of the intelligent and 
the cultured life. 

Adoption of a monistic view of mind and body may help in 
counteracting some of the more exaggerated aspects of the tradi- 
tional elevation of the spirit and disparagement of the flesh. Under 
the influence of the teachings of many religions, mind-body dualism 
appeared as an indispensable presupposition for the moral messages 
of altruistic and brotherly love. These moral teachings are not 
only compatible with a modern scientific and logical empiricist 
conception of mind-body identity but they can even more effec- 
tively be defended on this basis. First, there is an obvious confusion 
if the "passions" are identified as purely physical (pertaining to the 
body) and man's ideals are located in his "spirit." Prescientific, es- 
pecially animistic, conceptions stubbornly linger on in the language, 
if not in the thought, about moral virtues and standards. 

The monistic view, far from denying the differences between 
actions impelled by basic physiological drives and those controlled 

FEIGL 321 

by scrupulous and conscientious deliberations, merely tries to al- 
locate them correctly within the scientific conception of the human 
organism. The human cerebral cortex does exert an integrating 
and restraining effect upon the impulses which originate in the 
glandular system. We don't need the hypothesis of an immaterial 
soul or spirit which in turn controls brain activities. All we need 
is the philosophically monistic assumptions according to which 
certain processes in the cerebral cortex are empirically (not logical- 
ly) identical with the directly experienced qualities of wishing, 
willing, thinking, scrutinizing, deliberating, choosing, deciding, etc. 
It is these cortical processes which, interacting with the processes 
in the rest of the organism, exert their control over our actions. 

The dualistic hypothesis of an immaterial but causally efficacious 
spirit may be rejected as factually meaningless if it is so construed as 
to be absolutely incapable of tests; or, if it is introduced as a genuine 
hypothesis, it may be said to be strongly discontinued by the scien- 
tific evidence on hand. The principle of parsimony, one of the 
guiding maxims of scientific theorizing, rules against "multiplying 
entities beyond necessity." Naturally, here the decision cannot be 
as sharp or final as it is in connection with meaningfulness. The 
empiricist will admit that it is conceivable that sufficient evidence 
may yet emerge in favor of a dualistic conception. But he will also 
be very reluctant in attributing to the alleged facts of extrasensory 
perception, psychokinesis, mediumism, etc., any considerable 
weight as evidence for dualism. It is quite possible that these "facts" 
(if indeed they are not the result of self-deception, experimental 
or statistical error, or outright fraud) merely indicate new and 
strange forms of physical causality which may, however, still be 
quite compatible with psychophysiological monism. Nevertheless 
a cautious attitude of open-minded research in this area is the only 
one that an empiricist can afford to recommend. 

Educationally, perhaps, somewhat more significant are the im- 
plications of mind-body monism for the problem of free will. This 
old puzzle rests on some rather simple conceptual confusions. There 
is the idea that we could not be held responsible for our actions if 
these are the strict causal consequences of antecedent conditions, 
i.e., of "nature" and "nurture" (hereditary constitution and all en- 
vironmental influences up to the moment of action). Moreover, 


there is the immediate experience of freely choosing between alter- 
native possibilities of action; this leads to the notion that the future 
is as yet undetermined but, with the aid of our own spontaneous 
decisions, may become determined. "Spontaneity" here is, then, 
often interpreted as causal independence from antecedent condi- 
tions. Just as in the case of mind-body dualism, we may say that this 
interpretation is not supported by any scientific evidence whatever. 
That the freedom we experience in choosing between alternatives 
should be freedom from causes is not only extremely implausible; 
this sort of freedom would even be indistinguishable from ab- 
solute chance a conclusion which, far from rendering responsi- 
bility possible, would in fact altogether exclude it. Only the de- 
terministic view provides an adequate basis for an interpretation of 
moral responsibility. That is to say, only if we are with our char- 
acter and personality as it is constituted at a given moment of our 
life the doers of our deeds, can we be held accountable. 

The naturalistic view here proposed considers human beings 
with their drives and interests, reflections and deliberations, pur- 
poses and ideals, preferences, choices and actions, as links in the 
causal chains of the processes of the universe. Causal determination 
on the level of the biopsychological organization of the human 
organism is, of course, very different from the push-pull type that 
philosophers traditionally have in mind when they identify causa- 
tion with mechanical determinism. Moreover, by confusing de- 
terminism (of any type) with compulsion, they arrive at the con- 
clusion that a strictly causal interpretation of human behavior im- 
plies the doctrine of fatalism. But the correlative confusion of free- 
dom with absolute chance will not extricate them from this un- 
desirable doctrine. The only way out, very clearly recognized by 
empiricist thinkers long ago, is to recognize freedom as absence of 
compulsion and to interpret causal necessity essentially in terms of 
lawfulness and predictability. Free will in this sense "presupposes 
causal determination and is inconceivable without it." 4 

For education, these clarifications imply that the specter of 
fatalistic helplessness rests on misconceptions which are easily re- 
moved. As long as education promotes the formation of intelligence 
and character in a manner which allows for free learning, rational 

4. Cf. the article by R. . Hobart in Mind, XLIII (January, 1934), 

FEIGL 323 

choices, and critical reflection, human beings so educated will have 
an excellent opportunity for being masters of their own activities 
and achievements. From the lessons of their experience they will 
learn how to adjust themselves for future exigencies. The senti- 
ments of regret or remorse can be instrumental in this regard only 
if they do not hopelessly fix the individual's attention exclusively 
upon his past deeds (this can only result in stupefaction and 
paralysis), but rather if they mobilize the resolution to act dif- 
ferently on future similar occasions. Docility, the capacity of modi- 
fying both one's beliefs and one's attitudes under the influence of 
experience, is of the very essence of freedom. 

The special forms that educational encouragement or discourage- 
ment should take in order to be most effective is a question for 
psychologists, not for philosophers, to answer. In general, what is 
known about the function of rewards and punishments (positive 
and negative reinforcements) seems to indicate clearly that the use 
of painful or frustrating measures of negative reinforcement so 
frequently results in undesirable by-products that modern edu- 
cation is surely right in accentuating the constructive techniques 
of encouragement. 


A discussion of the free-will problem remains essentially incom- 
plete without consideration of issues in ethical theory. In essence 
we have adopted Spinoza's definition according to which a being 
is called free to the extent to which its actions are determined by 
its nature; and is unfree to the extent that these actions are imposed 
upon it by factors or forces from without. While there may be 
some uncertainty regarding the precise delimitation of the "nature" 
of a human being, and although the terminology will seem some- 
what obsolete to modern psychologists, the basic idea of these 
definitions is eminently sound. "Free from what?" and "Free for 
what?" are the questions that must be raised and properly answered 
if we are to eliminate the gratuitous perplexities from the old 
puzzle. It is especially in connection with the second question that 
issues of valuation invariably arise. Again, in rather old-fashioned 
terms, we may say that the educational process develops or molds 
whatever original or "first" nature there is in a human being by 


transforming it into a "second" nature. More modern terms aside 
from the perhaps too narrowly doctrinaire "conditioning" would 
be "character training" or "personality development." If, as adults 
and civilized persons, we feel that we freely and willingly help our 
neighbors, abstain from robbing banks, keep our promises, pay our 
debts (even our taxes), then perhaps some of this is due to our 
"second nature," acquired through the process of "socialization" 
and education. But the "second nature" of the ruthless criminal 
may equally be acquired through the environmental influences that 
have impinged upon him throughout the course of his development. 

What is the "true" human nature that education ought to help 
shape in every human being? These are clearly value questions, 
moral problems. The core of human nature that is to express itself 
in our actions if these actions are to be called free may be dif- 
ferently conceived and has, indeed, been differently delimited by 
thinkers who subscribe to different moral ideals. In the Platonic 
and in the Christian tradition, for example, reason has been ad- 
vocated as the core of human nature reason in the sense in which 
it is contrasted with the passions. The puritan outlook is merely 
one of many historical instances of this sort of ethical evaluation. 
Cavaliers, however, might counter that the core of human nature 
lies in the passions and that man is free only if not constrained by 
reason. Lest it be thought that this position has never been seriously 
held, I quote a sentence from Hume who, even if not exactly a 
Cavalier, was rather a utilitarian: "Reason is, and ought only to be, 
the slave of the passions. ..." I trust this quotation detached from 
its context will not prejudice some of my readers too strongly 
against Hume and his moral philosophy. It is used here merely in 
order forcefully to remind ourselves that the aims of education 
presuppose some ideals of human nature and that such ideals are 
supported by value judgments. 

The central issue for any theory of values is clearly: Can value 
judgments be justified as true (or false), and if so, what is the basis 
and what is the method of such justifications? It can scarcely be 
overlooked that practically all of our activities occur in the context 
of decisions in which we judge some actions good, others bad; 
or, more frequently, where we make our choices in the light of 
some rank order of preferences ("better" or "worse" used as 

FEIGL 325 

asymmetrical and transitive relations wherever we deal with com- 
mensurable values). The perennial issues in value theory are then 
expressed by the following queries: Are value judgments proposi- 
tions in the same sense in which empirical statements are proposi- 
tions? Does it make sense (and, if so, the same sense) to ascribe 
truth or falsity to value judgments as it does to empirical proposi- 
tions? In what sense, if any, can value judgments be said to be ob- 
jectively true, i.e., to have intersubjective validity? 

Logical empiricists are generally agreed to draw a sharp distinc- 
tion between the study of evaluations and the making of evalua- 
tions. We may study evaluations as they occur in their social and 
cultural contexts; we may try to account for them psychologically, 
socioeconomically, etc. The study of evaluations itself is, of course, 
controlled by the criteria of scientific inquiry which in this context 
are presupposed and not under scrutiny. Similarly, there are many 
cases in which a value judgment simply amounts to applying value 
standards which are not called into question on such occasions. 
These value standards (norms or criteria) are tacitly presupposed; 
they are taken unquestioningly for granted. But what is accepted 
unquestioningly need not be considered unquestionable. Even the 
criteria of scientific inquiry have been subject to revision, in the 
long history of scientific thought. This could be formulated by 
saying that the very definition of "science" has undergone some 
changes. In most of the typical value questions of ordinary life, 
both the criteria of empirical truth and the standards of value form 
the unquestioned frame within which removal of doubt or the 
settlement of disputes is undertaken. For example, ceteris paribus, 
it is better to eat than to starve, better to treat a child kindly than 
cruelly, better to have knowledge than to be ignorant. The logic 
of the reasoning which we use when we justify our preferences is 
simply to show that the presupposed value criteria apply to the 
special case. That is to say, empirical judgments decide about the 
presence or absence of certain properties or relations. Perplexity 
arises only when the criteria of valuation themselves are called into 
question. This obviously happens when we realize that there may 
be no intersubjectivity: "One man's meat is another man's poison"; 
"de gustibus non est disputandum" etc. 

There is a good deal of tolerance nowadays in matters of culinary 


and even of artistic taste a "live and let live" attitude is almost 
essential for a cultivated person. But exactly the opposite holds in 
matters of fundamental moral values. We are most emphatically 
intolerant not only toward embezzlers, thieves, rapists, sadists, 
despots, kidnappers, traitors, and murderers but we also disapprove 
quite strongly of greed, sycophancy, mendacity, hypocrisy, psy- 
chological hostility, sexual aberrations, and unfairness of various 
sorts, even when these attitudes remain entirely "within the law." 
For this reason I think it is not only unfortunate but definitely mis- 
leading if some radical positivists have tried to assimilate moral 
judgments to judgments of taste. Not only do we hold our moral 
judgments with a much greater degree of seriousness this would 
indeed be a mere matter of degree but the very meaning of moral 
norms is misconstrued if it is analogized to that of aesthetic norms. 
There is nothing in the meaning of aesthetic norms that demands 
universality or intersubjectivity. But whenever we raise the ques- 
tion of morality, of the tightness of acts, we (implicitly, at least) 
assume that the moral principles hold equally stringently for every- 
body concerned, in no matter what conflict of interests. 

In aesthetic questions we may face a divergence of attitudes, and 
we may well let it go at that, provided this divergence is morally 
inconsequential. In a conflict of interests which is to be morally 
adjudicated, the first condition to be fulfilled is that with due 
allowance for morally relevant differences between the persons in 
the dispute these persons are in any case basically equal to one 
another as far as the moral rules are concerned. In this respect moral 
value judgments differ quite fundamentally from all other types 
of value judgments. In aesthetic judgments we are concerned with 
the structure and the content of works of art. If we criticize peo- 
ple for their bad taste, such criticisms are not in themselves aesthetic 
judgments, in the sense in which a judgment which condemns, 
e.g., a painting as "vulgar" or "worthless," formulates an aesthetic 
valuation. But in making moral judgments we judge each other. 

The point of the foregoing remarks is simply this: If we are not 
to distort beyond recognition the ordinary and central meaning of 
such words as "moral," "ethical," and their uses in such compounds 
as "morally good," "ethically right," and "moral obligation," we 
must retain in the definition of them certain characteristics that 

FEIGL 327 

distinguish moral norms from norms in other fields, such as the 
norms of logic, arithmetic, the norms of wholesome nutrition, of 
hygiene, of etiquette, of good manners, or of correct spelling. It is 
true, once norms of any kind have become absorbed and deeply en- 
trenched in our habits, they will be experienced as possessing 
value they have become habitual values. But, if the jeu de mots 
be permitted, there is a difference between habitual values and 
valuable habits. 

Norms which are embodied in habits, like any rule which we 
have made to govern our behavior, have a motivative function, ex- 
pressed by "ought" and "should" in common language. Com- 
pliance with the rule is apt to produce self-approval to the point 
of guilt feelings, even if the rule violated was merely one of diet, 
cleanliness, or other TZtfranoral rules. Moral rules are distinguished 
from other rules in that they are designed to enjoin consideration 
for the interests of our fellow men by some principle of justice, im- 
partiality, or equity. This would seem to be the minimum con- 
dition for an adequate explication of the core-meaning of "moral 
rule." Considerateness in the sense prescribed by "Do no harm 
to others!" is implied but is, by itself, not sufficient. Whether, in 
addition to a principle of justice, a principle of kindness (going 
beyond equity) is required in order to explicate the common mean- 
ing of "morally good" may be questioned. Even more uncertain is 
the inclusion of some principle of perfection or self-realization. 

I trust these remarks will not be misunderstood. I am here not 
concerned with advocating a code of ethics. Explication, not ex- 
hortation, is my business as analytic philosopher. I have tried to 
show that the minimum meaning of ethical terms and imperatives 
in ordinary usage is such as to preclude any simple and complete 
analogy with aesthetic terms or aesthetic norms. But having em- 
phatically pointed this out, I must hasten to add that in other 
respects there is, even in the field of moral principles, a good deal 
of leeway for persuasive definitions. As many critics of the Kantian 
categorical imperative correctly realized, an abstract principle of 
justice or impartiality even if it sets off moral rules from nonmoral 
ones is by itself extremely barren ("formal" though not purely 
formal, in the sense in which logical truths are devoid of empirical 
content). Depending on what other rules are added to the principle 


of justice, different ethical systems result. These ethical systems 
may be regarded as genuine alternatives in the same sense in which 
Euclidean and various non-Euclidean geometries are alternatives 
and incompatible with one another. It is for this reason that moral 
value judgments cannot be analyzed into purely empirical prop- 
ositions. Ever so often, the question, "Is this really right?" (i.e., 
"Is this really what we ought to do?") arises, not from (the 
ubiquitous and often formidable) difficulties of foreseeing the 
consequences of our acts, or seeing through the factual complexities 
of means-ends relations, but rather in the form of uncertainties 
regarding the moral norms themselves. 

These difficulties are in principle capable of resolution by em- 
pirical inquiry. To be sure, one cannot expect any set of moral 
norms, no matter how completely and carefully specified, to ad- 
judicate every concrete moral issue. There are situations in which 
our obligations may be so precisely counterbalanced by other 
obligations that a reasoned resolution may be impossible. There are 
other situations in which every conceivable action is so fraught 
with evil that we are unable to decide which sort of action would 
bring about the least evil. That ethics is not, and cannot be, an 
"exact science" with decision procedures for all possible issues has 
certainly been admitted by many a thinker, ancient or modern. 
But what has perhaps not been sufficiently realized is that, even 
within the frame of an ethics of justice, fairness, benevolence, and 
self-perfection there are alternative ways of applying these key 
terms to the empirical characteristics of conduct, attitudes, or char- 
acter-traits which are the object of evaluation. What appears as 
just and equitable in one system of valuations may not appear so 
in another system. Every one of the key terms of moral valuation 
is open to persuasive definition or redefinition. To put it dif- 
ferently: The "prima facie obligations" which so many moralists 
accept as unquestionably basic in the moral universe of discourse 
allow for different sets of priority rules (rules of precedence). 
Only if we could justify a universally acceptable set of priority 
rules would we have a unique system of ethics which would re- 
semble in intersubjectivity the criteria of scientific method. 

Again, it should be noted that these reflections are not based 
upon the type of evidence which anthropologists and sociologists, 

FEIGL 329 

especially of previous generations, were so fond of citing in behalf 
of their doctrine of ethical relativity. In accordance with the modi- 
fied position of present-day cultural anthropology, I would cer- 
tainly insist upon the distinction of mores, i.e., folkways, with 
their taboos and injunctions, and morality, i.e., the more funda- 
mental ethical norms in whose light the mores may be appraised in 
regard to their justifiability. With these modern social scientists 
I believe that there is an important and fairly large common core 
of basic moral principles, characteristic of most civilizations and 
relatively unchanged throughout history. This common core arose 
fairly inevitably out of some of the most pervasive aspects of the 
human situation. In a context of interdependence and co-operation, 
in the pursuit of common goals, we quite naturally make demands 
upon each other. If these demands are not respected, we find in 
"public opinion" or in the "consensus of the majority" an authori- 
ty which, relative to the individual, plays psychologically a role 
similar to that of a (more or less) impartial parental censor or 

Education with its atmosphere of moral approvals and dis- 
approvals develops in the individual that internal "still voice," the 
conscience, which, though corruptible, is nevertheless immensely 
powerful in its normal functions of a restraining and /or inciting 
force. Whether we conceive conscience thus as a result of moral 
conditioning or psychoanalytically as the introjected parental 
authority (the super-ego) is perhaps merely a matter of ter- 
minology. Once this capacity for internal self-appraisal is de- 
veloped, it assumes occasionally sufficient independence or eman- 
cipation from the moral precepts with which it was originally im- 
bued. It then may break through even majority-endorsed standards 
and come to embrace new principles of morality, in the light of 
which the old ones may not only be abandoned but morally con- 
demned. "Reverence for life," the outlook of the radical pacifist, 
or (on the opposite side) Nietzsche's ethics of the superman may 
be regarded as such "transvaluations" of previous values. 

The normal process through which value-attachments come 
about may be explained in terms of Gordon Allport's principle of 
functional autonomy: What at first is valuable instrumentally (ex- 
trinsically) may, through use, become terminally (intrinsically) 


valuable. Justice, kindness, and perfection regarded in this way are 
generally accepted moral values, precisely because they are the 
results of adjustments of attitudes which are practically bound to 
emerge in the context of social interaction. The moral reformer 
who emancipates himself from tradition-endorsed standards can 
justify his "heresy" only by reference to the probable results that 
the adoption of his moral code will yield for mankind as a whole. 

Logical empiricist moral philosophy may be regarded as relativ- 
istic in that it recognizes moral values (or, for that matter, values 
of any kind) as dependent on human needs and interests. A 
"categorical" imperative, i.e., an unconditional moral command, 
appears to be ineffective in that without appeal to human interests 
it would never come to be adopted; and it appears arbitrary in that 
the acceptance of a moral code can be justified only with reference 
to the goals of the group to which the code is to apply. But in 
view of the basic and practically permanent aspects of the human 
situation this "relativism" is not to be confused with a moral 
anarchism, skepticism, or nihilism. A certain frame of moral 
principles reflects in its stability the constancy of the human-social 
situation. It is primarily 'within that frame that we find moral 
disagreements often poignant, painful, even tragic which cannot 
be settled by appeal to logic or empirical evidence. Value attach- 
ments may indeed be so incompatible with one another that the 
only techniques available for the settlement of disagreements will 
have to be noncognitive. 

Persuasion, re-education, and psychotherapy are examples of 
such techniques in which emotive meanings or the motivative 
function of language play an essential role. But there are also such 
practical techniques as compromise, the great device of business 
and of politics; segregation, i.e., the separation, as in divorce, of the 
incompatible parties unfortunately usually not practicable in inter- 
national conflicts; or "higher synthesis," i.e., the procedure which 
achieves agreement by abandoning lower for higher values, as in 
the case of the formation of an international state in which each 
of the participant nations sacrifices some of its sovereignty in favor 
of the unity of the new organization. While history seems to indi- 
cate that coercion and violence are inevitable as last resorts, this 
pessimistic view may yet be recognized as a hasty generalization. 

FEIGL 331 

Ends and Means of Education 


The scientific outlook in philosophy proposed by the logical 
empiricists has no room for "absolute values" if this phrase is 
understood to mean values that could be demonstrated or otherwise 
justified independently of any reference to human needs, interests, 
and ideals as they naturally arise in the bio-psycho-socioeconomic- 
historical matrix of civilization. Our age of scientific enlightenment 
requires a new form of emotional and moral maturity: We shall 
have to learn to live with our knowledge about ourselves: to 
combine scientific, penetrating insight with serious moral and social 
commitments; to acquire the ability to use our knowledge wisely and 
humanely. There are many who find no difficulty in this. But 
there are others who do not feel secure except within the frame 
of dogmatic creeds. And there are still others who, having lost 
their religious or their social-political absolute faiths, feel completely 
at sea and resort to a "philosophy" of nausea, despair, and spasmodic 
irrational action. Such a philosophy is exemplified in some of the 
German and French forms of existentialism. It is not fully clear at 
present to what extent the inherited constitution and the life-ex- 
periences of an individual are responsible for these attitudes or 
character traits, or for dispositions inclining them in these directions. 
Fuller insight into the factors that determine a person's outlook upon 
life will ultimately help in the elimination of infantile fixations 
and in the prevention of regressions to less mature levels of de- 

The scientific humanist does not engage in the search for abso- 
lutes, the quest for the indubitable; but he is nevertheless able 
firmly to hold to the truths which experience has sufficiently sub- 
stantiated and to the attitudes which experience has sufficiently 
endorsed. He is not disturbed by the impossibility of demonstrating 
that his beliefs and attitudes are necessarily the only ones that are 
"absolutely valid." The scientific humanist thinks and acts within 
a frame of standards and criteria which he feels has sufficient 
practical justification not to be called into question on every oc- 
casion of doubt. He attempts to resolve doubts first 'within this 
frame, but he is entirely willing to reconsider the frame itself and, 


if necessary, to replace it by a new one. Psychological studies have 
made it fairly clear that the tolerance of uncertainty, of doubt, 
of dilemmatic quandaries is more marked in what also, on other 
grounds, would be recognized as the more "grown-up," the 
maturer kind of personality. Emotional immaturity often expresses 
itself in a dogmatic attitude. 

The scientific humanist refuses to anchor his beliefs and valua- 
tions in the unknown or the unknowable. He recognizes the illu- 
sions engendered by wishful thinking that underlie the other-world- 
ly (transcendent) beliefs of those who cling to the orthodoxies of 
theology or metaphysics. He repudiates as worthless sophistry the 
medieval and latter-day theological or metaphysical "demonstra- 
tions." Logical analysis shows clearly the reckless and irresponsible 
extensions of the usage of ordinary language when applied to the 
"absolutes" of transcendent speculation. The humanist also suspects 
that the much-vaunted "humility" of those who submit to an abso- 
lute authority (be it religious or political), in some cases, amounts 
to a camouflaged conceit or arrogance. The claims of "higher" 
knowledge or of special power or privilege are only too transpar- 
ently self-aggrandizing delusions. Equally obvious in a psycholog- 
ical way are the techniques of promising rewards or threatening with 
punishment in the hereafter. The humanist can look only with con- 
tempt at such bribery or blackmail. Mankind would be in a deplor- 
able position if it depended on such crude devices for the enforce- 
ment of its moral principles. 

In our age of scientific enlightenment, human knowledge and 
human love and sympathy are the only firm foundations on which 
moral conduct can be built. The message of brotherly love com- 
bined with the message of justice, the ethical core of many of the 
world's religions (but without the theological superstructure), is, 
of course, wholeheartedly accepted by present-day naturalistic hu- 
manists. It is an elementary fact, fully substantiated by modern psy- 
chology, that the constructive tendencies of love and sympathy are 
apt to be inhibited or to be turned into aggression, cruelty, and vio- 
lence through frustration or deprivation. Whatever original, aggres- 
sive impulses there are in the behavior of the normal child can be 
sublimated and thus guided into channels of socially constructive 
action by proper educational guidance. It is a common human ex- 
perience that our actions are apt to be socially most valuable if they 

FEIGL 333 

spring from deeply benevolent impulses. It is equally clear that we 
achieve peace of mind under these same conditions. 

Since persons who are strongly dissatisfied with themselves are 
rarely able to extend good will to their fellow men, the educational 
task is clearly to guide them toward conduct which will yield a 
large measure of self -approval. The enormous amount of hostility 
and aggression (friction, tension, wilful misunderstanding, non-co- 
operation, slander, defamation, envy, and jealousy) present in human 
relations could be considerably reduced by appropriate educational 
measures. But the educational front is only a segment of the total 
front on which we must advance toward a more humane form of 
existence. Nevertheless, the educational effort is crucial inasmuch as 
progress on other fronts, such as the social, political, economic, legal, 
or hygienic, usually requires a readiness for new ideas and general 
open-mindedness which a scientific and humanistic education is more 
likely to produce than are other types of education. 

There is little else that I can say along these fundamental lines 
regarding educational ideals. Recognizing the actualities and the po- 
tentialities of human nature and society, logical empiricists, like most 
other liberal thinkers, very gladly give three cheers for democracy; 
or is it only 2.85 cheers? (The minor qualification merely serves as 
a reminder that even the democratic form of government is not 
completely free from such more-or-less incidental disadvantages as 
the dangers of bureaucracy, the slowness of deliberation and deci- 
sion, the spoils system, the corruptibility of entrenched parties, and 
so on.) Democracy as a form of government and as a way of life 
is, in any case, tremendously superior to all other forms i.e., the 
aristocratic, the tyrannical, the feudalistic, the theocratic, the tech- 
nocratic, and the fascistic or the communistic totalitarianism. 

Scientific humanism acknowledges the supreme merits of self- 
government by means of universal suffrage; of a government that is 
responsible as well as responsive to the interests of all concerned, 
and in which those concerned participate intelligently and responsi- 
bly in the shaping of their own welfare. It is becoming increasingly 
clear that, in comparison with this basic ideal, such issues as those 
of economic socialism vs. capitalism in any of their various forms 
and modifications are subsidiary, despite their vital practical im- 
portance. Some scientific humanists consider a democratic socialism 
at least as a live option, if not actually as the most hopeful solution 


for our pressing problems. If the ideals of social justice held by 
capitalism (private ownership of the means of production; free en- 
terprise, etc.) and socialism (public ownership; governmentally reg- 
ulated economy) are identical, then, of course, no moral argument 
could decide between them. The issue would then be merely one 
of a purely factual consideration of the comparative expediency of 
the two systems. But it is likely that there are moral differences, 
because it seems that social justice is differently conceived by the 
two points of view. 

Like many other reflective thinkers who are able to keep their 
heads above the turmoil of the moment, humanists not only "dream" 
of but also actively work for the ideal of the community of all men, 
a world state. Difficult as the attainment of this ideal must seem at 
present, we must not be discouraged in its pursuit. Education may 
well take this up as a challenge and help the young (as well as the 
adult) in exploring the ways and means of a more equitable sharing 
of the resources of our planet and of establishing a world govern- 
ment that will make war at last obsolete. War, the worst, or in any 
case very nearly the worst, of all evils, is basically anachronistic, 
stupid, and ineffective as a means for settling conflicts of interest. 
In a time when there can be no victor, when the powers of de- 
struction are more horrible than ever, when large masses of the pop- 
ulations are in mortal danger, and when the consequences of war 
in terms of disease, poverty, and universal misery are incalculably 
great, general education surely can help in preparing the minds for 
peaceful alternative procedures. 

I am painfully aware that the philosopher, as purely reflective 
thinker, can contribute scarcely more than these unoriginal and rath- 
er abstract suggestions. The real constructive work will require the 
collaboration of the experts of many fields. But in this collaboration, 
the philosopher-humanist can fulfil a useful critical role. He can 
watch the thinking in this domain (just as elsewhere) and remind 
others as well as himself of the norms of valid reasoning. 


The preceding discussions have already amply indicated what sort 
of contribution education can and should provide in guiding in- 
tellectual and moral growth. A brief and more systematic summary 

FEIGL 335 

will be useful at this point. The classical Aristotelean conception of 
man as the rational animal all too frequent manifestations of ir- 
rationality to the contrary notwithstanding may still be a good 
beginning. But it is indispensable to explicate fully and precisely 
what this "rationality" to be fostered in education signifies in sum 
and substance. 

"Rationality" connotes a variety of virtues of thought and con- 
duct. The following list may not be complete, but it will be suffi- 
ciently suggestive: 

1. Clarity of Thought. This implies the meaningful use of language, the 
ability to distinguish sense from nonsense and thus avoid gratuitous 
perplexities over unanswerable questions. It also implies a sufficient 
degree of specification of definition of meanings so that communica- 
tion may be as unambiguous and concepts be as precise as the task on 
hand requires. 

2. Consistency and Conclusivcness of Reasoning. This is "logicality" in 
the narrower sense of absence of self-contradictions and of analytically 
necessary implications between the premises and the conclusions of 
valid deductive arguments. Conformity with the principles of formal 
logic insures fulfilment of this requirement. 

3. Factual Adequacy and Reliability of Knowledge Claims. These are the 
virtues of thought usually summarized under the caption "truth." Truth 
may be semantically defined as correspondence of statements and facts. 
But this rather formal definition is insufficient if a characterization of 
the confirmation of truth is to be given. Wherever a complete con- 
frontation of statement and corresponding fact is impossible, principles 
of inductive probability for the partial and/or indirect verification of 
generalizations, hypotheses, or theories have to be respected. Gener- 
ally the degree of confirmation (or of the reliability) of factual state- 
ments is to be maximized in accordance with the rules of inductive 
logic. Wherever the evidence is too weak, belief should be withheld 
until further evidence turns up to decide the issue on hand. 

4. Objectivity of Knowledge Claims. This comprises intersubjectivity and 
impartiality in cognitive issues. Objectivity in this sense involves not 
only absence of personal or cultural bias but also the requirement that 
knowledge claims be testable by any person sufficiently equipped with 
intelligence and the instrumental devices for performing the test of the 
knowledge-claim in question. 

5. Rationality of Purposive Behavior. Rationality in this sense may be 
explicated as the main feature of behavior which achieves its purposes 
by a proper choice of means. Behavior which defeats its own purposes 
is generally considered "irrational." This criterion of rationality is 
closely related to a similar but more specialized concept in economics. 
Generally speaking, we have here a conception of rationality which 
amounts to a minimum-maximum ("minimax") principle according 
to which a maximum of positive value is to be produced by means 
which involve a minimum of negative value. 


6. Moral Rationality. This comprises: (a) Adherence to principles of 
justice, equity, or impartiality. If there is no morally relevant or suf- 
ficient reason to allow greater privileges to one person than another, 
they are to be equal before the moral law. This exclusion of special 
privilege rules out the sort of arbitrary arrogation of rights on the 
part of individuals who are unwilling to accept the correlative obli- 
gations, (b) The abstention from coercion and violence in the settle- 
ment of conflicts of interest. "Appeal to reason" in the sense of all the 
connotations of "rationality" thus far enumerated (from i through 6a) 
is deemed as the only morally acceptable method for the adjudication 
of disputes. 

In addition to these ideals of rational thought and conduct, ed- 
ucation should foster the development of constructive and benevo- 
lent attitudes. It should help every individual in maintaining a suffi- 
ciently high level of aspiration for self-perfection. But it should 
also be mindful of the important psychological fact that too great 
a discrepancy between the ideal-as-envisaged and one's achievements- 
as-experienced-by-one's-self is apt to produce neurotic maladjust- 
ments. Severe self-criticism, often engendered by harshly disapprov- 
ing parents, teachers, or "father (mother) figures" in later life pe- 
riods, may result in depression, abulia, anxiety, or similar symptoms 
the typical troubles of many an adolescent or adult perfectionist. 


The main educational implication of the philosophical outlook of 
logical empiricism might be formulated in the slogan: "Scientific 
enlightenment versus tradition-bound obscurantism." The modern 
scientific attitude has much of the Promethean ardor: The torch of 
enlightenment is to illuminate the dark corners of our minds; and 
it is to liberate us from the bondage of rigid customs of thought and 

There is much in progressive education that appears sound and 
hopeful. The urgent problems of human existence in our age make 
a forward-looking emphasis imperative. We have to fix our sights 
on goals to be attained rather than on past achievements, if we are 
to appraise the ways and means of education. In a world which 
utilizes to an ever increasing degree scientific knowledge for the 
improvement of life, a large part of education should be devoted 
to the acquisition of the scientific attitude and of an understanding 
of the problems and the results of the sciences, natural and social, 

FEIGL 337 

pure as well as applied. This can be successful only if we include in 
the study of the sciences, or otherwise in the curriculum of studies 
throughout elementary, secondary, and higher education, appropriate 
measures of the history and the philosophy of science. Mere facts, 
figures, and formulas, important though their mastery is, will by 
themselves never suffice for an adequate apprehension of the sci- 
entific outlook. 

It is my impression that the teaching of science could be made 
ever so much more attractive, enjoyable, and generally profitable 
by the sort of approach that is more frequently practiced in the 
arts and the humanities. The dull and dry-as-dust science courses 
can be replaced by an exciting intellectual adventure if the students 
are permitted to see the scientific enterprise in broader perspective. 
Preoccupation with the purely practical values of applied science 
has overshadowed the intellectual and cultural values of the quest 
for knowledge. Science in this regard is perfectly on a par with the 
arts. It is poor science-teaching that is responsible for the frequent 
dislike or even fear of the "difficult" and "technical" subject matter. 
Mathematics and the natural and the social sciences can be taught 
and studied in a manner that highlights the great achievements in 
these fields by concentration on the methods of the discovery and 
validation of knowledge. Students should be aided and encouraged 
to rediscover for themselves some of the simpler and basic facts of 
modern science; they should be guided toward a fuller understanding 
of the techniques of observation, measurement, experimentation, 
statistical analysis, definition, explanation, and interpretation. Nat- 
urally, methodology alone will not suffice. Intellectual training that 
does not fill the mind with relevant subject matter is bound to leave 
it sterile. "Concepts without content are empty, and [those] without 
form are blind." 

It should be clear by now that I am pleading for a golden-mean 
solution of the issue between progressive and classical education. In 
an age whose knowledge, culture, and civilization are of an unprec- 
edented complexity, even the minimum amount of knowledge and 
information that needs to be absorbed for the sake of responsible 
citizenship is so extensive that "learning by doing," while very de- 
sirable as far it will go, cannot possibly go far enough. A certain 
amount of systematic and sustained effort is unavoidable. 


The training in the sciences and in the scientific attitude should, 
of course, be combined with studies in history, literature, and the 
arts. Man does not live by technologically enhanced creature-com- 
forts alone. His very interest in pure knowledge for its own sake 
is of the same sort partly aesthetic in characteras his need for 
artistic creation and/or appreciation. Unfortunately, a very com- 
mon misconception views science and the humanities as somehow 
incompatible with one another. This misconception arises out of 
confusions which can be removed by a little philosophical analysis. 

Science, by way of a reductive fallacy, is still regarded as es- 
sentially materialistic, and thus as incapable of accounting for the 
"higher things of life." And these "higher things" are still regarded 
as essentially beyond the reach of scientific inquiry because of theo- 
logical or metaphysical preconceptions which, owing to cultural lag, 
still survive in much of the thinking and even the language of our 
day. From the point of view of a scientific humanism, the aesthetic 
values, the values of the moral life and the values of love and friend- 
ship, are not in the least endangered by any explanation of their 
origins or functions that pychology and the social sciences may con- 
tribute. Only those who insist that the higher values of life are 
sustained by supernatural powers will find the scientific outlook se- 
verely sobering or disappointing. But once the other-worldly and 
obscurantist conceit is abandoned, our lives will be enriched by a 
better understanding of ourselves. 

To be sure, it is only part of wisdom if, ivhile experiencing, 
e.g., the ecstasies of love, we refrain from reflecting on these ex- 
periences from the point of view of endocrinology or that of psy- 
choanalysis. But it is equally clear that knowledge in these fields can 
be extremely helpful if we wish to remove pathological impediments. 
While listening with rapture to great music it is unwise to remind 
ourselves of the physics of sound production, e.g., to think of the 
scraping of horse hairs against cat guts in the violins. Nevertheless, 
the sciences of acoustics and electronics have provided tremendously 
enlarged opportunities for the enjoyment of music, as through the 
radio and the phonograph. These remarks are simply to point to the 
elementary wisdom of combining activities or attitudes simultaneous- 
ly only if they do not interfere with one another. It is a neurotic 
aberration of the intellectualistic temper of our time, if the spotlight 

FEIGL 339 

of rational analysis is applied to everything all the time. Gentle ed- 
ucational guidance can help in the more proper and fruitful use of 
the powers of reason. 

A little practical wisdom will go a long way also in resolving the 
issue between general and specialized education. Education toward 
responsible citizenship in the modern world must include broad and 
none-too-superficial knowledge in many fields. Elementary and sec- 
ondary education can contribute a great deal in this regard, even if 
not supplemented by higher education. Around this central core of 
general studies may then be grouped the individually different and 
more specialized vocational training. 

Individual differences in intelligence and in special aptitudes pro- 
vide a great range of educational possibilities. There is no doubt that 
scientific, cultural, and social progress demands that the best creative 
or critical minds be recognized early and be given special oppor- 
tunities in accelerated forms of education. It is a poor interpretation 
of the idea of democracy if it is made to justify a thoughtless 
egalitarianism. The formation of an intellectual 61ite is not only in- 
evitable, it is desirable for welfare of society as a whole. 

An often voiced complaint concerns the dangers of overspecializa- 
tion in our age of the extreme differentation and division of labor. 
Education, in clustering the specialized studies around an emphasized 
common nucleus of basic subjects, can counteract these dangers. 
Here some of the philosophical results of logical empiricism, especial- 
ly in its ideas concerning the unity of science, are highly relevant. 
From this point of view, the traditional departmental divisions are 
to be regarded as practical conveniences rather than as fundamental 
lines of cleavage. The unity-of-science movement, which has been 
an important expression of the logical-empiricist outlook ever since 
its inception, has stressed the essential unity of both method and 
subject matter of the sciences. The natural and the social sciences 
differ in their special techniques, but the methods of validation are 
essentially the same. They delimit the range and the level of their 
analyses differently, but there are good reasons to assume that these 
(superficially very striking) differences amount only to fruitful divi- 
sions of one unitary subject matter in its various aspects and levels 
of organization. Appropriate teaching of the sciences will enable 
the students in various stages of their schooling to cross departmental 


lines and to become increasingly aware of the common features of 
method in the various fields. 

Related to the preceding point is the even more significant con- 
tribution the logical-empiricist point of view can make in the ed- 
ucation toward clearer thinking. The elements of a philosophy of 
language can furnish important suggestions for the teaching and 
learning procedures on all levels. The process of communication is 
almost universally and constantly impeded by the obscurities, am- 
biguities, and vaguenesses of language. Thought itself depends so 
largely (if not entirely) on the modes of linguistic representation 
and symbolization that confusion and perplexity can be avoided only 
by greater attention to the rules of meaningful discourse. Logic in 
the traditional sense, while directly concerned with the correctness 
of reasoning, must be supplemented (as it has been, however insuffi- 
ciently, by "rhetoric" throughout the ages) by the new disciplines 
of semeiology, comprising syntax, semantics, and pragmatics. These 
formidable technical terms need not discourage the educator. There 
is much that is vital and yet quite simple and commonsensical in 
these disciplines. The ancient art of Socratic questioning in the 
pursuit of meaning can be brought up to date; it can be implemented 
with the tools of modern semeiology. Even on very elementary levels 
one can try to achieve a high degree of clarity. Techniques of def- 
inition can be utilized quite implicitly and informally with children 
and with increasing explicit awareness for higher stages of maturity. 
On the college level there are, in addition to the logic courses offered 
in philosophy departments, many other types of courses, including 
Freshman English, communication, speech, etc., in which the influ- 
ence of the new semeiotic disciplines is quite noticeable. 

Training in the analysis of the functions of language is, educa- 
tionally, extremely valuable in that it provides the tools for recogniz- 
ing propaganda, for persuasive definitions, and, more fundamentally, 
for an understanding of the distinction between cognition and valua- 
tion. It helps in spotting disguised tautologies and disclosing their 
factual emptiness. And last, but not least, it makes possible the dis- 
tinction between information on the one hand and exhortation, edi- 
fication, etc., on the other, which scientific enlightenment must 
insist upon if it is to dislodge the confusions with which tender- 
minded, wishful, and prescientific thinking abound. 

FE1GL 341 

Mankind has embarked on the adventure of civilization in which 
scientific knowledge plays the major guiding role. It is unlikely that 
we shall ever wish to return to a more primitive way of life. A 
sustained educational effort, for many generations to come, is ur- 
gently needed in order to adapt humanity to the new ways of 
thinking necessitated by this age of science. A philosophy which 
does full justice to the scientific outlook can be a powerful ally in 
our endeavors toward a more mature and more fully integrated life. 


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Co., 1952 (second edition). 

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3. EVERETT, M. S. Ideals of Life. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1954. 

4. FEIGL, HERBERT. "The Difference between Knowledge and Valuation," 
Journal of Social Issues, Vol. VI, No. 4, 1950. 

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D. D. Runes. New York: Philosophical Library, 1943. 

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University Press, 1944. 


An Ontological Philosophy of Education* 


There are some topics so seldom treated by philosophers that a 
professional can very nearly make his reputation outside his own 
field merely by dabbling in any one of them. Among these topics 
are religion, jurisprudence, and education. Now the corollary hap- 
pens too often that the philosopher with a deserved reputation among 
professionals is seldom taken seriously when he turns to the phi- 
losophy of education. So we have the unfortunate situation of ed- 
ucational philosophers with nothing to say and philosophers in 
education to whom no one listens. This situation must not be allowed 
to discourage the truly earnest workers. It is possible to make the 
greatest of claims in theory and still to hope that, because the meth- 
ods of translation into concrete applications have been indicated, if 
there is any residue of value lurking here, something will be done 
in practice. 

From one point of view, education proper is the acquisition of 
existing knowledge on the principles of rhetoric. Rhetoric is the 
theory of communication. The theory of education is a branch of 
pure rhetoric; the practice of education, applied rhetoric. Rhetoric, 
like most secondary theories with a field of application, is suspended 
in a sort of limbo between metaphysics, on the one hand, and 
practical states of affairs, on the other. It must have the character 
of a deduction from ontology and epistemology, and it must be 
susceptible of serving as the conclusion to a series of inductions from 
actual practice. Thus continual checking in both directions is in- 
dicated; a difficult task, when we take into consideration that we 
are dealing with three areas in which changes are taking place. 

* Educational Consultant: Professor James E. Wheeler, University of Ala- 



The aim of the following pages is to set the problem, present the 
difficulties, and then offer a constructive hypothesis, ending with 
some suggestions as to how such a proposal could be put into 

Theory of Unlearning 

For most young persons, education does not start at the beginning 
but in the middle. No matter at what stage formal learning is in- 
itiated, a great deal of damage has already been done. For we shall 
usually find that we are dealing, not with ignorance, but with false 
knowledge, with accepted errors and half-truths. If we take into 
consideration the usual procedures of education, we have to face 
additional difficulties instead of enlightenment. For education often 
reassures the ignorant by intensifying the ignorance. The less we 
know, the more certainly do we impart it to others. The result is 
not knowledge but absolute beliefs; the frozen procedures of side- 
tracked attention lead to the squirrel cages of deflected inquiry. In 
a small way, we learn to play games; in a large way, we adopt ritual 
cycles, e.g., religions without the concept of progress. 

Most people, in other words, young as well as old, do not ap- 
proach formal education with inviting ignorance but with their 
ignorance and its limited virtues already lost to them. Very young 
children ask the fundamental questions which suggest a purity of 
ignorance. They want to know such things as who is God and how 
far space extends. We hypocrites have answers ready for them. And 
so they lose their ignorance; grow up in a bewildering maze of 
formulas which are intended to satisfy them; marry; and enter the 
rat race of paying taxes, running for streetcars, reading the funny 
papers, getting to the office, shaving, and the myriad other ways of 
conforming to the set practices of their society. This is not the 
stage of wisdom and knowledge; it is merely the stage of ignorance 

Due to the marvels of modern universal education, most people 
have been trained for a life to be led in this limbo. They eke out 
their anomalous existence somewhere between the abstract and the 
concrete. Common experience is not a base line, it is a compromise, 
inherited in average form; the shreds of ancient knowledge and 
wisdom worn away at the edges by a constant rubbing against 


mediocrity. For intensification has come in two directions: The 
artists have genuine experience of concrete objects, the product of 
high concentration for many years; and the mathematicians and 
empirical scientists know what it means to move among abstractions. 
But the education most people receive prepares them for neither. 

Historically speaking, the peasants were accustomed to dealing 
with concrete particulars, and the scholars with abstractions. This 
took place at a fairly common-sense level, however, in both cases. 
The extraordinary progress in mathematics and in empirical science, 
if not in all of the arts, has penetrated to deeper levels of analysis 
and has left the bulk of the population far behind. For them we 
have invented a new kind of thing: mass half-education. We have 
produced an exceedingly large population which has lost contact 
with the concrete particulars of the illiterate but which has not 
succeeded in gaining a familiarity with the abstractions afforded by 
the erudite. 

Mass man today never reaches up to the logical structures of 
mathematics, physics, and metaphysics, while he has lost the ability 
to get down to the intensive cultivation of the active, concrete 
world. He has, in other words, forsaken the cultivation of his feel- 
ings without having the reward of an increased cultivation of his 
reason. He lives in an unreal world especially created for him by 
the popular press, the Hollywood movies, the big radio programs, 
the popular books (such as detective novels and sodden, sentimental, 
historical romances). Ignorance indeed has been lost in this stage 
of education which is yet the fate of so many that the customs and 
institutions of the western world have hardened around it. 

A few, a very few, persons struggle on past their education and 
into a third stage which, for want of a better phrase, we may name 
"ignorance regained." Here a caution is necessary. Knowledge is 
power, and power is ethically neutral. The first use of a newly 
acquired power is its misuse. The airplane bombed in war before 
it carried passengers in peace, high-speed printing produces the 
yellow press, and soap operas are the chief ornaments of the radio. 
But these abuses are not inherent in the media. We cannot blame 
the power, only the errors which have led to its misuse. The way 
out, then, is not down to the primitive. We should not fall back 
on candlelight when the electric power fails but rather perfect the 


electrical system so that it will not break down. The road to the 
romantic past is closed; we must look forward to the true cultivation 
and the proper functioning of the new instruments for mass educa- 
tion which we in the western world have acquired. Hence, ignorance 
regained is not a phrase to describe a fashionable sort of primitivism. 
It absorbs rather than denies the techniques we have acquired. 

Ignorance regained consists in the attitude of inquiry which has 
at its command the instruments of controlled imagination and de- 
veloped logic against the background of a greater experience with 
fact, reluctant to accept any knowledge as final except the tools of 
reason and the passion for the search. Some of those who acquire 
this faculty are to be found among the personnel of the arts, the 
sciences, and philosophy. The task of the theory of education, then, 
is how to disclose the formal principles of theory and the inter- 
pretations of procedure which will produce these results in more 
students. Put otherwise, how are we to substitute aids for obstacles, 
the questions for the answers, the methods of research for the 
absolute truth? 

At first glance, we appear to be cautioning skepticism; but such 
is not the case. It is the ignorant and the stupid and the slow whose 
minds are storehouses of beliefs. The intelligent know how to think 
and to judge; hence, a belief has a harder time getting into their 
minds. The process of education requires as much effort and time 
to unlearn the wrong beliefs as it does to indoctrinate the right ones. 
It is the certainty of beliefs which must be placed under attack, for 
the fear of false knowledge is the beginning of wisdom. Skepticism 
is a stage in the process of unlearning, not an end in the pursuit of 
knowledge. We should not accept dogma this is what we have 
been saying; but we cannot remain skeptics. Socrates did not teach 
skepticism; he taught the limits of ignorance and assumed the ex- 
istence of a true knowledge which he hoped to find, and at least 
intended to seek on very nearly religious grounds. The alternative 
to these errors in procedure is to acknowledge that the search for 
truth is asymptotic. The pursuit of knowledge is always a matter 
of approach, for we can believe that there is such a thing as the truth 
without thinking that we have it or even that we are very close to 
finding it. We are obliged, then, to employ the techniques of the 
asymptote, and we shall be surprised to find that they are somewhat 


complicated. Before we can proceed with such techniques, however, 
we shall have to study the nature of belief as important to the theory 
of unlearning. 

Theory of Belief 

The mind is a more complex affair than was once supposed. In- 
deed, so difficult is the whole business that it is no longer fashionable 
to refer to it as an entity but only to point to the integration of its 
parts in a process. Awareness is the traditional name for this entity, 
though behavior is the more recent one; while the unconscious is 
presently represented only by its malfunctioning. Other departments 
pertinent to our purpose must be introduced: There is memory, for 
instance, whose current surrogates are recall, recognition, and re- 
learning. We shall have need here to direct attention mainly to a 
more recent philosophical and anthropological theory dealing with 
the positive content of the unconscious. Behavior in terms of re- 
sponses to the stimuli set up by propositions and by combinations 
of propositions has yet to be sufficiently explored. It so happens that 
human cultures, being more or less consistent structures, exhibit in 
their details the implicit deductions from hidden axioms. The 
cultures are permeated through and through with the influence of 
the axioms, so that to live in the culture, to grow up in it, is to 
absorb the axioms without ever once becoming aware of them. The 
deeper the level of the unconscious, the more primitive the logical 
level of the structural proposition represented by belief, so that as 
we endeavor to think through to the elements of the unconscious, 
we penetrate past deductions, reach lower than theorems, and 
finally get down to the layer of the axioms themselves. In the sense 
that these are common to all individual members of a culture, they 
are social. Erroneous deductions may be private and individual, but 
the axiom-set is public. 

It is also ontological, and by "ontological" here is meant con- 
cerned with basic value systems. We shall use the term * 4 ontology" 
as the positive and constructive answers to metaphysical problems. 
Here, then, at the level of unconsciously held beliefs resides that 
profoundest of beliefs, the belief in what is real. By "real" here we 
shall mean the immediate object of the true. No human can live 
among his fellows for any length of time and share their interests 
and activities without holding in common with them some beliefs 


about the ultimate nature of things. These beliefs may be implicit 
rather than explicit, but they dominate most surely every one of 
our thoughts and actions; and the less we are aware of them, the 
more they are effective. They are the axioms dictating action. The 
culturally prevalent, implicit, dominant ontology is the greatest 
force in the life of every individual. 

Most people do not do any more abstract thinking than is ab- 
solutely necessary for their simple needs; but each of us feels, if 
not all equally profoundly, and everyone engages in action. Un- 
conscious beliefs are contained as consequences more clearly in 
feelings and actions than they are in the expression of conscious 
thoughts. So it is at the level of feeling and action that we readily 
find the phenomenon of the implicit, dominant ontology. A man 
may assert one belief and, under the pressure of crisis, act in the spirit 
of another. When we act from feeling, we act from the springs of 
unconscious belief. Our beliefs, so to speak, betray themselves in 
feelings and in actions, but they never appear candidly as what 
they are, and their axiomatic nature is well concealed. 

The acquisition of the axioms takes place early in life. It is not 
absorbed at any one moment nor by any single process. We accept 
beliefs from our way of life, from our parents, friends, and teachers, 
from all contacts with other persons, and also with the folkways and 
artifacts of the culture of which we are to be a part. The f ormaliza- 
tion of the process of axiom-acquisition is a topic to be undertaken 
somewhat later in the discussion. Here we shall be concerned only 
with the situation as it confronts the educator. By the time formal 
education begins at any advanced stage, it is already late. Who can 
yet determine how soon we adopt those beliefs of which we are so 
unconscious that we question the sanity of any who may wish to 
examine them? Yet, all further education is in terms of those beliefs 
and must reckon with them. 

We have praised reason only at the conscious level and feel- 
ings only at the unconscious. And this has led us to note that 
principles are held at the unconscious level as well, so that the 
reasons which underlie the conscious feelings must also be reckoned 
with; but there is more to the problem than that. The trouble with 
education in this connection may have been that it has operated in 
terms of an imperfect analysis of reason. It may have allowed peo- 


pie to be taught how to draw conclusions from axioms but not how 
to question axioms. Now here is an effective field of inquiry. It 
happens that this sort of education for reasoning may have bad 
effects as well as good ones. When Hitler came into power the 
German nation was one of the most highly educated in the world. 
Thus, the Germans were able to follow the logic of Naziism, once 
they accepted its axioms, with all the deadly deducibility that edu- 
cation for reasoning could bestow. The questioning of axioms is 
not a simple affair of reasoning; it involves some knowledge of 
ontology as well as of logic. 

The proper kind of education, then, must consist in the eliciting 
of contradictions in the matter of unconsciously held beliefs, to 
demonstrate elements of untenability in the implicit, dominant on- 
tology. Only when this has been done have we prepared a student 
for the ready reception of material furnished by the agreement be- 
tween logic and fact. For to convince him that he holds contradic- 
tions is to render his present beliefs untenable and thus to put him 
in the way of examining others along with them. 

Here, of course, we have reached the boundaries of philosophy. 
The professional philosophers have their own difficulties. To make 
the implicit explicit, to choose between alternative ontologies (in- 
cluding the consideration of anti-ontological positions), to seek 
to discover what they themselves believe (in contrast to what at first 
they may think they believe), and, finally, to seek to discover the 
truth about such matters is to be confronted with a set of almost 
hopeless tasks. Yet this is where education begins, not where it ends. 
We do not have to be in possession of more than a small part of the 
truth in order to know something of the method by which it might 
be pursued. The techniques of the asymptote are the limits of the 
ontological field, suggested by empirical data and defined by logical 
structure Such knowledge can never be more than probabilistic, and 
our approach to it, tentative, exploratory, and inquisitive; and 
the more profound the level at which our investigations are made, 
the more this holds true. 

Theory of Learning 

The theory of education ought to have two broad divisions. The 
first of these might be a deduction from the theory of knowledge 

F E I B L E M A N 349 

(epistemology). The educational process would follow theoretically 
from the tentatively accepted principles as to how we can know. 
Learning, considered in this connection, is the disciplined method of 
control whereby we utilize the knowledge process The second is 
a deduction from the theory of reality (ontology). The educational 
process would follow theoretically also from the tentatively ac- 
cepted body of knowledge as to what there is to be known. Learn- 
ing, considered in this connection, is the disciplined method of 
control whereby we utilize the process of inquiry into being. In 
this section we must try to sketch a theory of knowledge and to 
give some implications to education; in the next section, to perform 
the same service for the theory of reality. But before we can con- 
sider the formal type of learning which this advanced stage repre- 
sents, we shall be obliged to consider some earlier, yet very im- 
portant, preliminary stages. Learning will be considered under 
three broad subdivisions: (a) preformal learning, (b) informal 
learning, and finally (c) formal learning, 


Preformal learning is ontogenetic. We are dealing with the de- 
velopment of the individual as a matter of capacity. Maturation is 
the first indication that there are definite stages in such develop- 
ment. Apart from theories of inherent knowledge, such as an- 
amnesis, the capacity for the holding of knowledge is a definite 
preparation for its acquisition. A mind, before knowledge, is a 
definite capacity, a possibility of sheer awareness. Here, no doubt, 
heredity plays a role; from the remote recapitulation of phylogenetic 
patterns to the nearer immediate antecedents from grandparents 
down, certain excellences of physiological equipment are handed 
on which are at present largely a matter of guesswork. What is it 
that makes one child brighter than another? Better coupling of 
the neurons, smoother pathways across synapses, faster connections 
within the hypothalamus? This will be a matter for physiology some- 
day to decide. But that differences do exist in the degree of ability 
to acquire knowledge and to manipulate it once acquired, there 
can be little doubt, even though these differences are difficult to 
measure and, indeed, cannot be accurately measured by means of 
any existing techniques. 


The mind, we shall venture at this point, is a certain capacity to 
acquire knowledge, to hold it, and to use it. It must be that, in 
addition to maturation and other ontogenetic and phylogenetic fac- 
tors, there are also the accidents of chance encounters with the 
environment. The brain of the infant develops from birth, but he 
also lives in the world and has interactions with it. Thus, there 
arise individual peculiarities and differences quite apart from those 
originally present. These differences, together with the total in- 
heritance, produce a perspective. No two individual perspectives 
are alike, though all largely overlap. 

It would be difficult, if not impossible, to say when the perspec- 
tives become influenced by belief. Most certainly, beliefs do begin 
at the earliest moments. Perspectives are formed by the awareness 
that, for the subject, there are objects among the data of experience. 
We have, then, separate occasions for the development of perspec- 
tives which are phenomenological, and beliefs which are ontological. 
The ontological categories do not, as Kant insisted, prevent us 
from experiencing the real world; but, like binoculars, by intensify- 
ing our vision, they also narrow it and determine what part of the 
real world we shall experience. Very soon we understand that 
what we believe in comes to us through a perspective. Thus, there 
arises the notion of an implicit, dominant ontology which delimits 
the capacity it helps to provide. 

Sheer awareness has its own structure. It has also its own selected 
environment. Obviously, any actual thing in this case any organism 
is affected by the total environment. But it is aware from its 
perspective of a more limited area, which we shall call the avail- 
able environment. To this area it devotes a certain alertness, a low- 
grade sensitivity which is invoked when attending to something the 
mildest of disturbances. Stimulus at this level is a matter of mere 
exposure; and response, one of elementary awareness. The structure 
of awareness is so primitive that the individual is, so to speak, 
helpless in the hands of the data and can only respond with surprise 
to the novelty inherent in every act of experience. The preformal 
development of the capacity for learning comes to this: The organ- 
ism in its occupancy of a perspective, in virtue of its equipment, 
undertakes to be the more sensitive end-term in the relation with 
the environment and to store as images and generals the products 
of their interaction. 



We shall examine informal learning on the assumption that it is 
generally of three kinds, (a) ordinary living encounters, (b) en- 
counters with inconsistency in knowledge held, and (c) problem- 

Ordinary Living Encounters. The most rudimentary kind of 
informal learning issues from feelings of attraction or repulsion for 
elements encountered in experience. Feelings of pleasure or pain 
could be the primary sources. Feelings of pleasure lead to attraction 
in the service of the desire for repetition. These feelings eventually 
take the crude form of imitation, which is perhaps the earliest 
version of learning. Feelings of repulsion are initiated in the same 
way, namely as a matter of encounters with resistance in experience, 
as the lowest variety of pain. Contrary perceptions are one instance 
of this resistance, since difficulty of this sort is an obstacle. Plato 
thought that such, indeed, was the origin of all thought. 

Imitation is more active than any response produced by resistance, 
but the beginnings of planned activity in learning come with trial- 
and-error. Here we are still in the province of informal learning, 
but we are approaching the borders. We now sample the environ- 
ment with a view to discovering whether the feelings received 
will be pleasurable or painful, with the anticipation only that they 
will tend toward the one or the other. This kind of learning still 
survives, although less and less, in higher types of formal learning. 
There is no doubt a large, logical element in trial and error. We 
seek to find whether the portions of the environment we encounter 
will prove compatible or will conflict with our feelings. This is the 
element which the higher types of learning have sought to save. 

Encounters ivith Inconsistency in Knowledge Held. We have a 
more rigorous variety of the use of logic in the inspection of 
knowledge already acquired. The judgment of the inadequacy of 
knowledge held requires some logical estimation. We perceive a 
shortcoming in what we believe we know as contrasted with what 
we continue to experience. Logic operates on mere experience, but 
not to the extent to which it does when we shift our attention al- 
together with an increase in knowledge. Here contradiction is the 
only kind of resistance which it is possible to encounter. Such an 
event constitutes a way of learning, for it tells us that what we 


know is badly known or that, to some extent, it consists in false 
knowledge. For the first time we are leaning on purely logical 
elements in the learning process. Hitherto, logic had been an adjunc- 
tive component of sensory elements encountered in experience. The 
experience of inconsistency, while requiring more acute percep- 
tions, is still an experience. Only now our sensations tell us of 
more than sensory elements; these can in fact be discriminated only 
with the aid of the perception of relations. Logical relations are 
part of the product of sense experience. We get the tools along 
with the raw materials and then work over the one with the 

Problem-solving. Problem-solving must still be classified as in- 
formal learning so long as we do not employ established techniques. 
Let us say that in the course of our experience we have encountered 
obstacles; these are either of an empirical nature, such as are found 
among the elements of the external world, or of a logical nature, 
and located among the relations of our knowledge. Further, we 
recognize in these obstacles a generic property; we see that from 
time to time we shall encounter similar difficulties, or else we com- 
prehend that the problem is of the kind that will allow us time for 
its solving. Thus, we are formalized in our learning procedure to 
a much greater extent than formerly. Problem-solving can become 
established as a practice, and it can lead to discovery. In problem- 
solving, reason begins to assume a dominance over feeling, and we 
are led on toward more disciplined techniques. We have, in fact, 
reached the borders of formal learning. 


There are in problem-solving some notions of generality, as con- 
tained, for instance, in what we might call an anticipation of 
similarity in respect to further problems yet to arise. In this antic- 
ipation there are feelings of inadequacy the awareness of ignorance, 
for instance, carrying with it the necessity for training. We know 
that we need to acquire the equipment in terms of which future 
problems can be properly and perhaps successfully met. The fear 
of failure may often lead to the awareness of ignorance, and this is 
where formal learning begins. 

The training, of which we have spoken, is in two parts, (a) the 


theoretical and (b) the practical. The theoretical training consists 
in learning systems of ideas and values; the practical, in deriving 
inferences from performance. The first category should be turned 
over to theorists who have worked out the techniques of communi- 
cation. The second is a matter of getting hold of the principles of 
conditioning, after the methods followed by Pavlov and the later 

Theoretical Training. Theoretical learning is dependent upon 
systems of communication. This in turn will here be subdivided into 
(i) communication proper, involving the learning of systems of 
ideas, and (z)persuasion, involving the apprehension of values. 

(i) Communication is conducted in terms of languages. Lan- 
guages are systems of ideas expressed as sets of signs or symbols. 
Any system of knowledge is also a system of communication: There 
would be no point in the abstract organization of our knowledge of 
theoretical physics were there no hope of communicating it. We 
may, then, consider all knowledge systems as communication sys- 
tems in at least one of their aspects, although this function may be 
indirect as well as direct. Here we are concerned with language 
systems which operate in terms of direct communication. Direct 
communication takes place by means of denotative signs: signs that 
directly refer to logical meanings. 

There are three, and only three, kinds of signs, and as a con- 
sequence three kinds of language according to the predominant 
sign in use in each of them. There are axial languages, logical lan- 
guages, and actual-object languages, depending upon whether value- 
signs, logical signs (i.e., universals or generals), or actual-object 
signs (i.e., particulars or individuals) prevail. There is no such thing 
in practice as a pure language, that is, one involving only one kind 
of sign, yet there are languages containing marked amounts of one 
element clearly dominant over the others. Most of the great world 
languages are combinations of all three kinds of pure language. 
We must remember that, although language is the greatest of cul- 
tural tools and, therefore, systematic to some extent, still it is not 
entirely a planned affair. We can separate out the elements. 

Axial languages were devised to communicate values. The lan- 
guage of art is an example of an axial language. Axial languages 
are employed in indirect communication. There is no such thing 


as a direct communication of the values. Analogy is one of the 
more popular tools of the axial language. It seems easier for critics 
to talk about one art in the terms of another, when they wish to 
transfer feelings. Theology is another province where axial languages 
are employed. 

Logical languages were devised to communicate abstract struc- 
tures, laws, all denotative material. The language of mathematics is 
the prototype of all logical languages. It works by analysis, by di- 
vision, and with reference to fixed principles. The bare bones of 
the technique of communication show through here so plainly that 
the deductive method itself becomes part of the communication. 
In logic, we communicate the system of communication as well 
as the subject matter communicated. 

Actual-object languages were devised to communicate matters of 
fact. They cannot escape the use of universal signs nor the con- 
notations dragged along by images, but their main concern is with 
actual situations. They work chiefly by definite description. Jour- 
nalistic language and descriptive history are good examples of the 
use of actual-object languages. 

It should perhaps be emphasized that the analysis of the elements 
of the three languages is difficult, because sometimes a word repre- 
sents one language in one context and another in another. Consider 
the word "red" in three sentences. "The river ran red with blood," 
"Red lies near one end of the spectrum," and "The color of this tie 
I am wearing is red." The first red is an axial term, the second a 
logical term, and the third an actual-object term. The determination 
of what language is being employed depends upon the references 
involved and can sometimes be made from context. More often than 
not, the situation is a mixed one, containing several types of 

It is important to note in the theory of education that not all 
formal communication is in terms of written or spoken sign lan- 
guages. Gestures become standardized, too. Any movement may be 
meaningful and even be established as such. Hence, they may be- 
come part of formal communication. The material to be communi- 
cated and the means of communication interact; ideas determine 
language positively, and language determines ideas negatively. Com- 
munication is on its way to becoming an empirical science, due to 


the work of Shannon, Wiener, and others. Eventually this could 
exercise an effect upon the theory of education. 

(2) Persuasion is a kind of communication. Just as communica- 
tion proper was concerned with formal languages, including the axial 
language, so persuasion is concerned with indirect communication 
by means of values. It hopes to play upon the emotions to achieve 
the feeling of conviction. Communication proper works with the 
axial language, but in direct terms. Indirect communication or per- 
suasion works with all languages as though they were axial lan- 
guages. For it seeks to communicate the apprehension of values, 
which is always a matter of connotation rather than of denotation. 

Here we must revert to our theory of belief, to the process of 
awareness. Education-wise, the important part of belief was asserted 
to be unconscious. We shall now be dealing with opinion, which is 
deliberately held belief. We are unaware of most of our beliefs, but 
those of which we are aware are the objects of scrutiny. We can be 
conscious of only one belief at a time, and this is because we 
wish to examine it. A belief in the presence of awareness, then, is 
named opinion; for it is scheduled to be more firmly accepted or 
else to be rejected. Hence, the stage of opinion is for a proposition a 
temporary one. 

For the purposes of persuasion, then, a language is required. Un- 
derlying any language is an implicit ontology. It is to be found im- 
bedded in the syntax, even if nowhere else, and so takes effect in- 
directly. Thus, the process of persuasion lurks in the implicit as- 
sumption carried by the didactic languages which are employed in 
direct communication. To enunciate any statement of sufficient im- 
portance is to convey presuppositions unwittingly; in this way we 
often say more than we wish to say, more, for that matter, than we 
know. Thus, in employing languages emotively, we are almost cer- 
tain to go beyond the immediate question at hand. 

To say that persuasion communicates values and so obtains its 
effects by indirection is not to say that it is irrational, however. We 
would do well to distinguish the reasons which conflict with cer- 
tain of the feelings from those which are in accord with them. 
There is no inherent opposition between values and logic; the 
achievement of harmony is more a matter of arrangement. Any 
change of opinion finally requires reasons; it can never be brought 


about arbitrarily. Belief and doubt stand equally in need of argu- 
ments which at least appear to be cogent. Now it is true that, in the 
act of persuasion, reasons are often disguised or submerged; they 
may be heavily cloaked with emotion or presented in some other 
wrapping. No persons exist so stupid or dull as not to require 
reasons for changing their opinions. 

Persuasion aims to communicate a change of views. This means 
introducing a doubt as to the truth of the proposition held which 
it is proposed to alter. We are all a mass of prejudices. Everyone 
has an opinion on every topic of which he takes cognizance; and if 
we admit the existence of unconscious belief, then he has opinions, 
too, on many topics of which he does not take cognizance. We 
would never deliberately change an opinion did we not acquire 
some misgivings as to the position we already held. Now this is 
never done gladly and on a purely logical basis; a change always 
involves some doubt together with its feelings of discomfort, often 
amounting to pain. Thus, persuasion involves a negative factor. 
Self -persuasion includes the cultivation of doubt in one's self. We 
must learn to doubt what we hold to be valid and true, if only in 
order to test its validity and truth. 

Completed acts of persuasion never have been brought about by 
gradual stages but always take place by jumps. Looking back, we 
see that we have been influenced often by means of a number of 
small, imperceptible steps; but the actual change in opinion was a 
sudden affair of which perhaps we had been unaware. There is no 
middle ground between believing in one thing and coming to 
accept its contradictory, and so the shift from one to the other 
cannot take place by degrees. The process is no less decisive for 
being unobtrusive and unobserved. Reason operates with a silent 
method yet one which is none the less sure. 

Practical Training. Formal learning as it stems from the practical 
business of deriving inferences from performance is an unsteady 
affair which presents obstacles when we attempt to reduce it to 
a set of principles. Conditioning experiments introduce controls 
into the matter of experience, and this does tell us something about 
how the mechanism of stimulus and response operates. But in the 
matter of relating experience to education, particularly with 
respect to formal learning, such efforts do not go far enough. The 


reason is that in the process of education we are dealing, not mere- 
ly with controlled acts of experience, but with the whole human 
being. The lessons of experience must be different for an illiterate 
and for an intellectual. The same stimulus would not meet with the 
same response since the capabilities of receiving stimuli are not 
equal in all cases. Moreover, within each group, the lessons differ 
from individual to individual. What Hegel made out of his experi- 
ence is quite distinct from what Kant did. 

The analysis of experience in these terms reveals not one phi- 
losophy, as the philosophers of experience maintain, but many. 
There must be as many philosophies of experience as there are 
philosophers having experiences, and this includes even those who 
deny the cogency of experience in philosophy. Therefore, we are 
forced back into a more primitive analysis, we cannot talk about 
the lessons of experience until we have examined the structure of 
experience. Experience has a structure and a content. The content 
comes through experience but has little otherwise to do with it. 
In the analysis of experience, then, we discover, not what it con- 
tains, but what it is. Experience is an act, and it involves pre- 
suppositions, data, and a perpective. It is in the act that the 
transfer of content occurs. If by a supposed analysis we remove 
these, we would find ourselves left with the parts of the mechanism. 
It would soon be discovered, then, that the presuppositions are not 
logically derived from experience, since it is in terms of them that 
experience can take place. It would be discovered also that the 
data do not depend upon the experience through which their 
existence is first revealed. And, finally, it would be discovered that 
the perspective taken up was arbitrary. In this way, the analysis 
of experience would lead to philosophical implications which in 
the end have no more than an accidental connection with experi- 
ence. Thus, we find that it is not experience which is our starting 
point but the formal structure of inquiry, a more active and at 
the same time a more logical affair. The principles of scientific 
method are being studied now under the general heading of the 
technique of discovery, and this should open up some very im- 
portant areas to inquiry. 


Theory of the Known 

Education might be defined as the formal communication of 
the known. It is always a tentative affair, due to the limitations of 
both the methods of acquisition and the knowledge acquired. 
Neither process nor content should ever be regarded as more 
than interim affairs, for knowledge is hypothetical and only the 
inquiry itself is stable. Yet a theory of the known is involved, as is 
some organization of knowledge. This is not the place in which to 
undertake a survey of the whole of knowledge, though some such 
survey is a necessary part of every philosophy of education. It is 
obviously the task of the philosopher of education to get into com- 
municable form the material which he wishes to pass on. Now 
since all learning takes place in terms of universals and in some 
order or system, it is by communicating the structure of knowl- 
edge that we render much more accessible the transfer of its de- 
tails. We want to know the limits of what there is to be known, 
and we cannot become acquainted with the limits without some 
familiarity with the structure of knowledge the form, so to speak, 
in which it is to be passed on. 

The last structure of the whole of knowledge was the one 
erected by Aristotle. With certain adjustments and revisions, we 
employ his ideas in our practice today. The Greeks did not have 
experimental science, not, at least, in the modern sense of con- 
trolled experiments at deep levels of analysis, where instruments 
become necessary and final mathematical formulations are made 
of empirical findings. But such activities have been squeezed into 
the Aristotelian synthesis not, of course, without some difficulty. 
The modern departments of a university are no longer viable. 
They were set up along Aristotelian lines, but, in terms of the 
rapid advances of modern knowledge, they have become unservice- 
able. Recategorization is seriously required. New crosslines of 
research, fresh fields of inquiry, indicate sorely needed realign- 

Several examples taken from actual practice will make this 
clear. Recent work in the foundations of mathematics has shown 
that mathematics is an extension of logic. Logic is a branch of 
philosophy, so that those departments require reordering. Mathe- 


matics has outgrown its origins, yet the relationship ought to be 
recognized and kept in the foreground. Proximity would serve 
this purpose well. 

Again, history, philosophy, and other social studies have been 
pursued in a very disorganized fashion. It is becoming increasingly 
obvious that the parent study is social anthropology, the theory of 
human cultures. It has its structural subdivision in philosophy, 
particularly in ontology and ethics, and its developmental sub- 
division in history. The special social studies, such as economics 
and politics, must be ranged in their places, with economics as the 
most fundamental. 

The entire business of knowledge is part of the philosophy of 
culture. There is no body of world knowledge which everyone is 
trying more or less successfully to learn. Knowledge for all 
cultures is not fixed or static, and the whole enterprise must be 
kept more or less permanently subject to revision. The implicit, 
dominant ontology governs what shall be worth knowing. It 
governs, also, how that knowledge shall be employed in practice. 
Since cultures are in a sense ontologies which have been applied 
within the limits of the given environment, the role of knowledge 
in a culture is a function of the orientation of that culture. Thus, 
knowledge differs from culture to culture and from time to time 
within a culture. The unconscious belief in what is real, which 
anchors the ontology in the culture, does not remain the same but 
changes very slowly. It is these very elusive influences which are 
the more powerful for being unacknowledged, these implicit con- 
sistencies which are the more pervasive for seeming to have no 
fixed center, which must be the most carefully analyzed and 
represented in fixed principles. 

We might pause to regard one important recent shift in this 
area, where the belief in reality is beyond the conscious control 
of all of us. This is in the implicit, dominant ontology, the basic 
value system, of the western culture, particularly as it is reflected 
in the United States. Here the departure from the system of ideas 
established in the name of Aristotle has already been accomplished, 
though as yet its effects are not everywhere felt. The main shift 
has been one from substance to function. It can be seen in physics, 
for instance, in the transformation of matter into energy; it can 


be seen in logic in the replacement of the old subject-predicate 
logic by a relational logic; in legal theory by the conception of 
property as dynamic function substituting for that of property 
as static substance; and in politics by the shift from a negative 
democracy to a positive democracy, in which the government 
which operates effectively is not only the least possible but also 
the most necessary. 

It is evident that a new synthesis is emerging, a new structure 
of the whole of knowledge which will not leave any department 
unaffected. What is actually involved is a transfer of social belief 
and practice from the philosophy of nominalism to that of a modi- 
fied Platonic realism, underground perturbations certain to cause 
convulsive movements in the whole of the culture. To explore its 
various ramifications, therefore, requires the utmost in sensitivity 
and in breadth of investigative techniques. Knowledge is a by- 
product of the search for truth; and systems of knowledge are 
thrown up and left behind by every new and concerted cultural 
effort of inquiry. It is one task of the philosophy of education to 
call the turn on every large-scale movement in the fundamental 
theory of knowledge in a given culture. 

There are four, and at the present time only four, grand routes 
of inquiry. These are: art, religion, philosophy, and science. To 
these must be added, in a secondary manner, practical techniques. 
All but one of these are so old that we know nothing of their 
beginnings. The arts and religion are very ancient, and very 
possibly philosophy is, too. The last of the four, science, at least 
in the sense we now intend by the term, which is experimental 
science, is no older than the seventeenth century. There may well 
be others of which we, as yet, are unaware. In historical develop- 
ment, now one and now another of these fields sparks the re- 
mainder. Education must reckon with all four, but only to the 
extent to which they possess positive communicable knowledge 
and viable methods of inquiry. 

Nothing ought to be taught publicly and formally except in 
areas where there is agreement among rational investigators. This 
would require us to leave the teaching of the established, institu- 
tionalized religions to others and to concentrate on the problems 
of religion, including the whole spectrum of comparative religion 


from dogmatism to atheism. Each of the others has its own edu- 
cative value. The sciences teach experimental skills and instru- 
mental techniques. The arts teach the intensification of the senses. 
Philosophy, including mathematics, teaches rational facility in 
coping with formal structures. The scientist is more dextrous in 
dealing with empirical material, the artist is more sensitive, while 
the philosopher and the mathematician move more easily at the 
level of high abstractions. 

Each of these broad fields has, of course, its own principles and 
practices. Thus, education cannot afford to omit any, though such 
omissions have been and continue to be the custom. Socrates 
thought that the acquisition of moral perfection was the goal of 
education. In the Laws we are told that education is instruction 
in perfect virtue. Today we see education more in terms of the use 
of technical facilities. Both are important. Knowledge is virtue, 
Socrates asserted, and this can be maintained even after we have 
broadened knowledge to include manual skills which he would 
never have admitted. 

Concrete Proposals 

The next step will be to suggest some applications which are 
relevant to the foregoing pages. These will be in terms of con- 
crete problems in education, first as to methods, next as to program, 
and finally as to institutions. 


The methodology of teaching properly centers on the theory of 
the relation of theory to practice. This, it should be noted, is a 
theory and not a practice, even where the theory emphasizes prac- 
tice over theory. 

The oldest and best established tradition of education is the one 
which concentrates on the principles. The compulsory learning of 
what is believed in the way of principles is the form this tradition 
has taken. It has been perhaps longest the custom to teach abstract 
principles, on the assumption that, with a thorough grounding in 
their knowledge, students could easily work out for themselves 
how to apply them. The difficulties and limitations of this concep- 
tion became evident with the increase in exact knowledge. For 


application itself now requires a whole new set of principles 
which have to do with the techniques of practice. These modus 
operandi formulas relate the highly abstract principles to the con- 
crete practices, both of which are powerless without them. 

When the reaction occasioned by the new technical knowledge 
occurred, it went to the other extreme, as might have been ex- 
pected. Principles were to be abandoned altogether, on the plea 
that they were not fixed or absolute, and practices were to be 
taught for their own sake. Progressive education is as old as 
Plato but looks unfamiliar in its modern dress. Some authorities 
in progressive education teach that we must learn by doing, or, 
as some wit put it, by the theory of doing, which is translated in 
the modern progressive schools into "learn by watching someone 
else do." The assumption is that the best way to learn theory is 
through practice and that then, having the practice, we will not 
need the theory. This is an Aristotelian type of confusion of 
theory with practice, of which, by the way, Aristotle himself 
would never have been guilty. If we are to learn by doing, that 
should be the end of formal education: We ought merely to go 
out and do. For there is nothing more to learn about learning 
by doing; there is only the doing. 

What saves progressive education at this point is that the 
theory of the relation of theory to practice is not a practice after 
all but a theory. As such, of course, it may be practiced, and we 
can tell in advance that such practice must prove sterile. It issued, 
as a matter of fact, in the improvised curriculum. Presumably the 
theory would be all right for a society which planned to be static, 
which wanted to hang on but not to advance. If education is a 
reorganization of experience, then we might well ask, "Experi- 
ence in terms of what?" The philosophy of experience obviously 
teaches in terms of things as they are. It does not teach about 
them as they ought to be or as they might be. So much the worse, 
then, for certainly things are not what they ought to be. If we 
cannot strive even on ideal grounds to mak